I was honored to have been invited, this past summer, by Twitter Superstar Jeff Pulver to create and moderate a panel on law enforcement use of Twitter for his 140 Characters Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was October 27th and 28th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
As I contemplated who should be on the panel it didn’t take long for me to decide that the first-ever law enforcement panel at a Twitter conference should include some of the visionaries. So I invited the law enforcement leaders who literally put their department on the social media map because each one of them independently realized early-on, the very positive impact Twitter and other social media tools could have on law enforcement. What surprised me was that my first three choices all said “yes” without hesitating for even a second. They are Chief Dan Alexander of Boca Raton, FL PD; Chief John Stacey of Bellevue, NE PD; and Assistant Chief Scott Whitney of Oxnard, CA PD.
AC Whitney tells the story about how he first learned about Twitter when a poker-playing friend showed him how he used it with poker. Whitney immediately realized that he had to get his department involved on Twitter to communicate with citizens. Chief Alexander is so forward thinking, he hired a social-media PIO a YEAR AGO, and has since developed a comprehensive social-media plan for his department. Chief John Stacey, a LAwS client, credited me at the conference for dragging the Bellevue PD “kicking and screaming” into the social media world. Truth is, I’ve know Chief Stacey for 20 years. No one drags him anywhere. He’s always been very media savvy and open-minded and a progressive thinker. These three gentlemen completely “get it” when it comes to social media.
“…some of the words I’ve heard today, educate, excite, engage and involve fall right in line with that philosophy.”
~Chief Dan Alexander
In their presentations both Whitney and Alexander emphasized the connection with their community that Twitter has given their departments. Alexander said he wanted to get beyond disconnection with community and that social media has been the “best impetus” for the Boca Raton Police to accomplish that, adding that it fits well with their philosophy of community policing, “some of the words I’ve heard today, educate, excite, engage and involve fall right in line with that philosophy.”
Whitney echoed that opinion, describing how Oxnard PD has nine beats in his department, each beat has a beat coordinator and everyone of those coordinators is on Twitter, “so they can communicate with the community about the specific issues going on in their area.”
Chief Stacey talked about how police officers are taught throughout their careers to covet people’s information, “much like the cash in an armored car, police officers are the armored cars of your information and they must not share it with anyone”. Stacey calls getting involved with Twitter a major leap for his department but adds that they are discovering new audiences with it and added, “now the daunting task begins for us as police administrators on the way to regulate this”.
“The transition from typewriter to computer was tough too. Twitter is going to be just as difficult. But we’re excited about it.”
~Chief John Stacey
All three police chiefs agree that any sworn officer in their departments is welcome to use Twitter on the department’s behalf. As Stacey pointed out “the transition from typewriter to computer was tough too. Twitter is going to be just as difficult. But we’re excited about it.”
I’ve traveled around the United States, Canada and even overseas talking about law enforcement use of social media. Next up is another of Jeff Pulver’s 140 Character Conferences. This one is in London on November 17th. If you’re a police officer and can get to London, email me for free admission.
Pulver also allowed cops to attend the LA conference with free admission. About a dozen took us up on it. I recall his DM message to me said, “this is too important a topic, bring as many as you can.”
For more information about my upcoming presentations on law enforcement and social media, please see the “speaking” tab above or my website homepage, left sidebar. In addition to the 140 Character Conference in London, they include several “Cool Twitter Conferences”, The Leadership in a Cyberworld conference in March, in Texas for the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and a “Social Media in Government” conference in Ottawa and the California Peace Officer Association’s Annual Training Symposium in May.