The Dunwoody (GA) Police Department began operations on April 1, 2009. On April 2, 2009, we created our Twitter account and began tweeting. We really needed a way to quickly connect with our community and Twitter provided that platform. Once we made it past the busywork of the start-up, we created a Facebook fan page for the department as well. Both Twitter and Facebook are being used to educate the public and get the word out about the good things happening within our department.
However, I felt something was missing. I had a number of questions about using social media in law enforcement and very few answers. I received an email about an upcoming conference which seemed to be an answer to my prayers. Social Media in Law Enforcement, Using Social Media to Improve Law Enforcement and Engage Citizens seemed like the perfect conference for me. I quickly signed up and brought Sergeant Carlson, who is in charge of our Community Outreach Unit, with me as well.
The SMILE Conference was all that I expected and more. We attended the LAwS Academy the first day and the conference itself for the next two days. Each day was jam packed with excellent speakers, from all over the world, which covered a variety of social media topics of importance. The topics covered included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, Ning, social media monitoring, branding, podcasting, crime prevention, investigations, system integrations, adapting to the new media era and the future of social media to name a few. Each speaker was knowledgeable, provided great content and was able to engage their audience in meaningful conversations.
One of the highlights of the conference was a town hall meeting held one evening. Several of the speakers formed a panel and answered questions from participants at the conference. This was a great opportunity to discuss topics that were either not listed on the agenda for the conference or to discuss a topic that was listed more thoroughly.
Indeed, The SMILE Conference provided the answers to my questions and really filled in the missing pieces of the social media puzzle. I learned a great deal of specific, technical information about certain programs which will help me tremendously. However, there were three broad concepts which, I believe, will be the most beneficial.
The first is you need to have a plan when you get your department involved in social media. Unfortunately, when we first started using social media with the Dunwoody Police Department, we had no plan. After listening to all of the excellent speakers, I now understand the importance of having a plan and we will develop ours in the near future.
The second is you must have a social media policy. As of right now, my department does not have a social media policy. This will definitely be a priority prior to expanding our social media footprint in the future.
The last important concept I took away from the SMILE conference is you can’t do everything in social media. You should pick the social media programs that will be the most useful for your department and your community and use them. You do not have to do it all. This was a relief for me because I really felt overwhelmed by the large number of social media applications available and I struggled to identify the right ones for our department.
While at the conference, I tweeted about a program we are using at our department which has an iPhone application with it. One of the major metro Atlanta television stations, who follow us on Twitter, now wants to do a story about our program. This positive story would not have been picked up if it wasn’t for Twitter.
The SMILE Conference was a great benefit to me and my agency and the ideas I took away from the conference will light the way for my agencies future direction in social media. In addition, networking with leading thinkers and users of social media in law enforcement and outside law enforcement was especially helpful. I know that I am not alone and now I know who I can contact for help.
Billy Grogan is the Chief of Police in Dunwoody, GA. Chief Grogan is committed to the concept of Community Policing as a way to connect with the community in a meaningful way to combat crime and disorder and improve the quality of life for the visitors and citizens of Dunwoody. He attended The SMILE Conference in Washington, D.C. and offers this (unsolicited) perspective.
Chief Billy Grogan