This blog post is prompted both by a conversation I had recently with a large-agency police communications executive and by I was invited to write a guest post on about Twitter use by law enforcement, which was published today. Additionally, the Comms Director’s police department is doing a lot of nice things in social media but is not yet on Twitter and he had many questions.

He explained that his agency is ready to go there but there are many unanswered questions in his mind, which included:

Do they have one Twitter account for the entire agency?
Do they have several, representing different Units or even individual officers?

Who do they allow to Tweet?

Does he get his Chief on Twitter?

If they allow anyone beyond him to tweet, how do they manage a tweeter’s authority to tweet as representatives of the department?

Two thoughts come immediately to mind:

  1. This is why every department needs a social media strategy (the policy is part of the strategy) and
  2. Law enforcement could benefit from knowing what third party tools (not necessarily only for Twitter) can help them.

To the first point: I created the C.O.P.P.S. Social Media Method to provide a framework for thinking about these questions that are on everyone’s minds like the ones expressed above. There isn’t one answer that fits all agencies. The answer to the questions above lie in what your strategy is. The Units or individual law officers representing your agency on Twitter should be determined by your goals. First, what segments of your audience are you trying to reach? What are you goals with regard to them? What are your messages and therefore, who should be delivering them and how?

To the second point: there are countless third-party tools, all or nearly all of which were developed with open-source technology to help us all manage Twitter better. There’s even one that will allow people under your supervision to tweet, but which gives a supervisor review-power before the tweet goes out. Check out the Twitter toolkit on that I created. I make it my mission to tell law officers only about the tools worth your time. If you think there’s another that should be in the toolkit, let me know. Otherwise, don’t let all the social media hullaballoo distract you. That’s what I’m here for.

My thanks to Laura Fitton @pistachio and Janet Aronica @janetaronica for the invitation to write the guest post on