Tommy Lasorda addressed the CPOA

“You gotta win with these guys”, featured speaker and former Dodgers pitcher and manager, Tommy Lasorda repeated that phrase as he addressed the crowd at the California Peace Officers Association (CPOA) on May 24th. He was relating how he sometimes embellished the stories he told his players in order to motivate them to be champions. By the sound of it, the players not only believed every word he said, but the “stories” he told them often succeeded in getting them to believe in their indisputable success.

The CPOA, for the first time, ran dual tracks of training at this year’s annual training symposium. One of the tracks was made up of four sessions on social media in law enforcement (SMILE). The first one presented the lay of the land with two chiefs and one assistant chief from law enforcement agencies in California who are leading the way with SMILE. Chief Rick Braziel of Sacramento, Chief John Neu of Torrance and Assistance Chief Jason Benites of Oxnard related their agencies best practices with the new tools collectively referred to as “social media”. I was fortunate to have been asked to moderate. Each agency has its own formula that works for it. They talked about their successes as well as things that didn’t work and where they plan to go next. Chief Neu explained how his strategy in social media came from a survey of citizens who told them they want more information and increasingly they want the information digitally. Chief Braziel highlighted his internal communications and training platform built with Moodle and Assistant Chief Benites spoke proudly of Oxnard’s “Straight to You” program primarily made up of weekly video messages.

In another session, members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department delivered a terrific primer on investigations with social media tools. Showcasing the Detective Information Resource Center (DIRC) office, Sergeant David Poling and his colleagues discussed several case studies and took the audience through step-by-step how they were able to locate their suspect through persistent investigation of social media platforms including MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. DIRC provides its services to both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and outside law enforcement agencies.

A third session designed to provide some basic online training suffered a setback when Internet to the entire hotel and beyond went out less than an hour before the session started. It didn’t come back online so Deputy Chief Paul Bockrath from Fairfield set me up with his aircard and the hotel offered up a small wireless hub which accommodated about 5 people. Others had aircards or went without. We made it work. Having the Internet go out at the most crucial moment is like bad weather at the game. If you can find a way, you continue to play, which we did. We were still able to cover the basics of Twitter, Facebook and Nixle messaging.

Another session was a fascinating discussion about legal issues with social media in the law enforcement workplace and how they relate to the development of social media policy for law enforcement. The panel included Chief Tim Jackman of Santa Monica, Captain Richard Lucero of Fremont, Sergeant Tom Le Veque of Arcadia, Officer Jeff Van Wick of Murrieta, Attorney Kevin Hancock from Lexipol and myself as moderator. It was a fairly comprehensive dialog about many court cases which have either resulted in a cop losing his job or being disciplined, or other cases which may drastically effect the LE workplace in another way. As a result, I was more than a bit worried that we’d leave the audience more trepid about social media use in law enforcement than anything.

There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens. ~Tommy Lasorda

Perhaps Captain Rich Lucero, made the most salient point at the end of the session. He pointed out that the Quon case (Ontario, California, Police) was just argued in front of the Supreme Court a few weeks ago, the high court’s opinion is not expected for a few months. The Quon case involves an officer’s personal use of a pager issued by his agency and his right to expectations of privacy. And yet, it’s already outdated because it’s about technology that is no longer widely used. “It’s pretty clear, we’re having to figure these issues out for ourselves.” Lucero said and added, “this technology is changing so fast, there’ll never be case-law that’s really relevant to what we face on any given day.”

Tommy Lasorda visits with Long Beach Chief and CPOA President Jim McDonnell

Tommy Lasorda certainly wasn’t the first person to play baseball, but just as certainly, he played and managed the game his own way. He was fearless, inventive, strategic, and had a lot of heart. His message to the CPOA attendees definitely spoke to leadership. It struck me that what he said applies to the current state of implementing social media tools into the law enforcement arena as well. With social media, there’s no manual, no rulebook and no historical evidence. There’s also no World Series of SMILE to win. But law enforcement stands to win big. We have to approach SMILE with the same courage, creativity, strategy and tons of heart as Lasorda exemplifies. Lasorda won more than he lost. In the world of SMILE, there’s far more to be won than lost. With SMILE, you gotta win with your guys (and girls) and you will. You can bet on it. I’m here to help get you in the game, hit a few homeruns and make SMILE’n champions out of you.

Tommy LaSorda is also known to have said, “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.” Throw the ball already, the bases are loaded.