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Better Focus

34 people. Five sessions. Priceless feedback. 

We have made a number of changes to the Boca Raton Police communication strategy over the past year and it was time to get some constructive criticism.  Hence, we scheduled five days of focus groups, subjecting members to everything from signs and brochures to website designs and prevention programs.  True, there was a wide range of opinions from folks using very different frames of reference, but there were some common themes and observations which will clearly help us refine how we engage, connect, and communicate. I apologize for the seemingly disjointed synopsis, but there is just too much to cover in so little space.


VIPER is a relevant and sound community policing strategy, but some people don’t get it. We have to do a better job of explaining the concept on the web, in printed material and on the street.  We also recognize that it is time to consolidate the bocaviper.com and bocapolice.com websites. The future site, currently under development, will bring both VIPER material and information about the Department to one location.  Participants also expressed some confusion about Crime Watch and the Police Department. Crime Watch is a separate entity and we do very little cross-marketing to highlight how our missions are inextricably linked. Crime Watch is a valued partner and we will do more to support their work.
Opinions varied on the look of the current bocaviper.com site.  While some didn’t like aspects of the site’s appearance, others favored it over examples we provided which were reportedly “touristy.”  We will continue to use the black and gold colors to be consistent, with some variations resulting from a review of other popular sites.  Group members appreciated the communication resources available to them on the site. We will better emphasize these tools up front.  The feedback on video content was excellent. We will be shortening the videos we produce for the web and will seek to move longer segments to more appropriate media, such as our cable access channel. People enjoyed seeing solved cases and asked for more content about issues which are more of concern to them.
Aggressive and authoritarian (“DON’T_______!”) communication or marketing strategies do not resonate well. Protective themes and educational messages have greater impact.  Also, data isn’t enough. Respondents wanted us to include a specific call for action whenever possible.   Participants liked the bold look of our signs, but want to see “police” and our non-emergency telephone number emphasized more frequently.

Nothing can replace the face-to-face. People want a personal connection with Department members, more so at the street level. Whenever possible, we will be involving officers more frequently in neighborhood meetings and other events.

Not too many departments are using focus groups to challenge their communication models. I credit our public information staff and, particularly, Erica Reuter for developing and executing this process. The return on investment was phenomenal, given that it was easy to find volunteers who freely offered great advice in the interest of supporting their police department.  It’s a living, breathing animal, so I look forward to seeing how it evolves in future sessions.

The dynamic nature of social media will require us to be current, creative and, most importantly, relevant to our unique communities.  I think tools and processes, such as focus groups, can help point us in the right direction.  I look forward to seeing what other agencies are doing to become better “connected cops.”  Let us know what you think.

Gr8ful 4 @Twitter lists

I spent nearly the entire weekend going through the people and organizations I follow on Twitter, segmenting them into lists. It was a tedious task, but in the end, a bit cathartic. Now, I can see the police departments I follow with a click of one button. Before I had to download my entire twitter list, and delete the non-PDs, it took hours!

I’m very happy with the results. The cop list and police agency lists are what I believe to be the most comprehensive anywhere on Twitter. Unlike other agency lists, mine is purely agencies, and doesn’t also include vendors or LE supporters (that I’m aware of). Those are in separate lists. I attempted to filter out those accounts who claim PD names but aren’t the official Twitter accounts of the agency. I also tried to distinguish when a cop was tweeting as a cop as opposed to as a representative of his department. In all, I’ve released the following lists, with possibly a couple more to come soon (click on each to go there):

Additionally, I have a great social media guru list of the people I consider to be the leaders in social media. You can find it here:

If you’re aware of a person or group that I should have included in one of my lists and didn’t, or did include and should not have, please let me know. either @reply or email me.

The way lists work is that you can click on anyone’s list and select to follow it, without adding all those names to your follow list. So, I’ll keep track of the law enforcement agencies, cops, vendors, etc on Twitter for you. All you have to do is follow my lists and I’ll do the work for you.

#polcasm = when a police officer gets a little too excited

Dave Briggs made that quip at the Policing 2.0: The Citizen and Social Media conference in England on October 22nd. #polcasm is the Twitter hashtag for the event, which was sponsored by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

npiaThere was indeed much to get excited about at #polcasm. Three things stick out in my mind as highlightes: 1) The “Balance Your Bobby” project in North Wales and well as the agency’s approach to neighborhood policing and its incorporation of Facebook, 2) William Perrin’s “Talk About Local” project and 3) the presentation by Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond about mypolice.org.

Inspector Ian Davies of North Wales Police presented the “Balance Your Bobby” project. It’s an online system for citizens to influence where the officers should focus attention within the police jurisdiction. What I learned from Ian the night before at dinner was even more interesting to me and was one of the only real uses of social media tools, as opposed to innovative new website-creation tools, that I learned about at the conference.

Upon landing at the North Wales Police website, you’re presented with the option to choose your neighborhood.
nowalesOnce you select it, the next page offers a Facebook site for each and every neighbourhood. On the Facebook page, the officers assigned to that neighborhood offer information and every single one of them is listed, complete with how to contact them. It seems like a simple idea, but many police departments covet their officer phone numbers and email addresses as top-secret info. What the heck for? Even more interesting, Ian said each officer is not allowed to interact on the sites with their personal accounts, only with their official department profiles which were set up and managed by the police department.

Talk about Local is awesome. It enables communities to create their own local sites in their neighborhoods to facilitate communication about safety issues and to become more involved with improving their own areas. talkaboutlocal.org was created by William Perrin, a former civil servant and private secretary to Tony Blair.

Unfortunately the mypolice.org service has yet to be launched. It reminds me of ratemycop.com, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. But what’s different about mypolice is that the conversation can go both ways between citizens and police. When it’s up and running it promises to be a tool, for all of the UK, for people to post comments or to provide suggestion for improvements and invaluable insight. They hope to reach groups that are often not heard from and provide a way for the law enforcement agencies to interactive with all citizens. I’ll try to keep an eye on the service and report back.

I was asked several times while at the conference and since returning home how what’s going on in the UK compares to what police departments in North America are doing in the social media world. According to Mike Alderson, (@openeyecomms) 15 of the 44 police services in England and Wales are on Twitter. But from my own observation they make the same mistakes with Twitter as police agencies everywhere: they don’t engage, they follow few, and they don’t tweet with an identity other than the PD.

But the fact remains that more and more law enforcement agencies everywhere are using social media and many are doing it very well. If each agency could learn from the best practices of others, we’d achieve greatness in real time. Suffice it to say “real time” is not happening, but the ball is picking up speed.

A huge thank-you to Nick Keane of the NPIA for including me in an outstanding day.

Three reasons every cop should be on LinkedIn

The top three reasons police officers should use LinkedIn are pretty much the same as the top three reasons anybody should use LinkedIn.
They are:

1. Participating in LinkedIn groups
2. Leveraging the LinkedIn extended network to solve police business problems
3. Career development

The disconnect is that many cops aren’t necessarily business minded and they may not be forward-thinking about their own careers as might be beneficial to them. But the times, they are a changin’ and so too should the way police officers think of their own careers, the running of their agencies and the way they connect with other like-minded people.

Others can see my organization is on the cutting edge. My contacts are CFO’s and COO’s who comment that the police agency is not afraid to take risks and we’re willing to share what we’re doing. We’re not cloak and dagger as law enforcement is known for. ~ Chief David Molloy, Novi, MI

Chief David Molloy

Chief David Molloy

Chief David Molloy heads the Police Department of Novi, Michigan. He joined LinkedIn about 8 months ago and already has connected with 450 other professionals, both within law enforcement and not. Molloy masterfully leverages the online tool in all three of the ways mentioned above.

Molloy uses LinkedIn to connect with leaders both locally and outside of his community. He also communicates regularly with colleagues around the country who are members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Associates (FBINAA) through groups on LinkedIn.

Novi’s top cop maintains his reading list on LinkedIn and regulary gets comments on the books he’s reading. Additionally, he says he welcomes the transparency LinkedIn offers, adding, “Others can see my organization is on the cutting edge. My contacts are CFO’s and COO’s who comment that the police agency is not afraid to take risks and we’re willing to share what we’re doing. We’re not cloak and dagger as law enforcement is known for.”

Police officers can otherwise connect with other cops who share the same interests or who might be tackling the same types of issues that they are. One of the best ways to do this is to join a group. The Law Enforcement 2.0 Group for example was started just a few weeks ago by Mike Waraich at Daily Splice and addresses issues regarding law enforcement’s use and adoption of social media. It’s fairly active, if only because we social media bloggers are chiming in a lot, and it already has about 75 members. Topics that groups address are seemingly endless but if something isn’t addressed by a group, anybody can start one. Molloy plans to start a group for Michigan Police Chiefs.

Sign up, search for some friends and colleagues and join some groups. Go get the first 20 or so contacts by initiating a request and asking people to connect; it gets easier and faster after that. It takes about 75 connections and some time on a Saturday afternoon to fully realize the potential of LinkedIn. Explore the “statistics” to see your extended network. Once you see how many people and places are in your extended network, imagine the possibilities if you’d like to relocate or take your LE career in a new direction. And don’t worry, you can fully manage settings to prevent people who aren’t connected with you from seeing certain aspects of your profile, even your name and photo.

The basic LinkedIn account is free. In fact the only thing I don’t like about LinkedIn is that to upgrade to the next level costs $25 per month. I think that’s a bit steep but there’ll come a day when I might bite the bullet and do it anyway. So sign up, join Law Enforcement 2.0, and tell them “Lauri sent you”.

Wanted in Montreal: one social media cop

Recently, it was my pleasure to sit down with Mario Plante, the Assistant-Directeur Chef de service at the Montreal Police Service (SPVM-Service de police de la ville de Montreal). Plante explained his title as “# three in charge”. We chatted about SPVM’s plans to integrate social media into its operations.

SPVMlogoEarlier in the year, Deputy Chief Jean-Guy Gagnon spent several weeks with the Toronto Police Service as part of an exchange between the two departments to allow top officers from each to observe the best practices of the other. One of the top takeaways Gagnon took from TPS is its use of social media tools, especially with regard to how Constable Scott Mills, Toronto’s Youth Officer, reaches young people,  including  those involved in gangs. Plante explained, “and when he game back to Montreal, he said how can we do what Scott Mills is doing, here?”.

The answer appears to be that the SPVM will hire from within its ranks of youth officers, one officer who’s primary role will be to work the social media tools to connect with Montreal’s young people. Plante said they will name someone from within the Youth Policing Unit who gets along well with kids and who also possesses the right psychological profile to succeed. Montreal’s youth population is extremely culturally diverse. The officer placed into this position will have to communicate with kids from dozens of cultural backgrounds.

With regard to the right profile, Constable Mills recommends, “To be a cop working with social media and relationship building, you have to be a spatial thinker that can visualize positive outcomes well into the future…The satisfaction of the job becomes … more of a quiet satisfaction you get from the thank you from a parent when they know that you have done everything you can online to try to find their missing child,… acknowledging that they know you are working in an online world that few adults completely understand, but their murdered child was an integral part of.”

To be a cop working with social media and relationship building, you have to be a spatial thinker that can visualize positive outcomes well into the future…The satisfaction of the job becomes … more of a quiet satisfaction you get from the thank you from a parent when they know that you have done everything you can online to try to find their missing child,… acknowledging that they know you are working in an online world that few adults completely understand, but their murdered child was an integral part of.

The officer’s title won’t include the words “social media cop”. That emphasis is my own. But the concept is new and was previously addressed in the article “Social media police officer?” by fellow blogger, Mike Vallez. The default position in a PD to handle social media so far, has been within the communications office. That is of course, with the exception of the departments who get into social media because one cop just decided to do it one day as is what happened in Toronto with Mills and his colleague Sgt Tim Burrows. For the Montreal Police Service to decide that its first official foray into the social media world it will appoint a sworn street-level officer is brilliant.

It’s brilliant because the person who possesses the knowledge and the relationships with the segment of the community of interest, is absolutely the best person to add social media to his bag-of-tricks to enhance the work he’s already done. Mills is illustrative of this. His mantra is “relationships and technology”. He preaches it to whoever will listen as well as to those who won’t. But he’s a (relentless and intense) master at turning kids around because of the relationships he fosters, relationships often made even better on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else the kids are.

Not only will they select someone who already works the streets as a youth officer, they then plan to send the officer to Toronto to learn from the best – Constable Mills. Plante said they hope to have the officer identified by January or February and to be shadowing Mills in the March/April timeframe.

Plante said the plan is to give the operation a year, at which time they will reevaluate and take a look at expanding. I said to him then and I’ll repeat it here for the record. It won’t take that long. I give him six months. Providing they make a good hire, they’ll want to expand the the effort sooner rather than later.

On an unrelated note, in addition to the fact that the top cops at SPVM are demonstrating how progressively-minded and strategically-smart they are, they are also some very snappy dressers. 😉

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