April 7, 2010 will be a bench mark date for Law Enforcement for many years to come. It might not be as big as 1215 or 1829 are to policing but it will certainly be a day to be remembered. It was the day that several progressive and forward thinking police agencies assembled some of their officers to take part in the first Social Media in Law Enforcement Conference.

Agencies from Europe, Canada and the United States gathered in Washington DC, to share best practices, emerging trends and to learn from each other “What’s next?”

Professionals from law enforcement, government, private industry and the public sector came together to share, learn and empower each other to embrace Social Media not just as another tool to use in our arsenal, but as a mass communication tool to engage with our communities and increase the transparency of what we do on a daily basis.

Some agencies showed they are on the cutting edge of this tool by having already implemented a strategy, policy and functioning system. Others were there to see how they could follow suit.

It was agreed by all that the use of Social Media is not something they should be thinking about, but something they need to be doing. We saw examples like that of the Boca Raton Police in Florida where Social Media has become a primary tool for communicating with their citizens. The Toronto Police Service began voicing out to their community and beyond with officers pushing information on traffic and community safety along with the incredible work of the Toronto Crime Stoppers program becoming the foundation of what Crime Stoppers International has evolved into.

The conference started with the basic “how to’s” of platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogging and how to use those tools not just for external, but also internal messaging. Day two built on the basics with examples of how police use different platforms to increase their output and voice within their communities followed by a ‘town hall’ style session that kept the participants writing fast and furious with the information that was flying at them. Day three did not slow down from the opening till the end as we got a glimpse of ‘What’s Next for Law Enforcement in a Brave New World”.

While I don’t consider myself an expert, I will say Social Media in Law Enforcement is nothing new to me, but I can tell you this. I was blown away by what I saw and heard at this conference. I was amazed to see that at the end of the conference, on a Friday afternoon there were as many people there as on day one at the beginning. We have all been to other conferences where the last session is a ghost town…not this one. That is an indication of what the attendees were treated to, but more importantly…what you missed if you weren’t there.

You should be making your plans now to be at the next SMILE Conference. I know I am.