Note: Chief Alexander will be a SMILER, presenting “Leveraging Social Media to Create a Brand” on April 8th.

The Social Media in Law Enforcement (SMILE) Conference will be held in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, April 7th-9th, 2010.  Go to for more information.

Given the many training options and tough economic times, why should you spend valuable time and money on a social media conference?  With many other competing demands, why should you care about social media?

For most of us in policing, our fundamental philosophy hasn’t changed.  We work in “community policing” organizations and we rely heavily on our constituents to effectively police our jurisdictions, to include getting the resources we need to get the job done.

What has changed is the influence of the Internet and the many sources people use to get information these days.  It’s no secret that traditional media outlets have suffered as a result of the economy and the growth of new Internet-based “media” outlets.  It’s also clear that millions of people are connecting and getting informed through social media sites, such as Facebook and Twittter.

I think it really comes down to two questions. 

Why not leverage social media to expand your influence and reach your community in their own frame of reference?  You go to their neighborhoods for meetings, so why not connect with them online?  Your constituents are there, where are you?  For you penny pinchers, social media is incredibly cheap, so the return on investment is outstanding.

Why put yourself at risk by ignoring social media?  I’ve watched my colleagues try to ignore a particular traditional media outlet due to a negative story.  They always go back, because their residents continue to get their news from these traditional outlets. 

Guess what?  They are talking about you in social media. Why wouldn’t you want to offer your side of the story?  Better yet, why not use social media to get ahead of that media landmine or community concern?

So, why go to SMILE?  You will have the opportunity to interact (not just listen to) with people like you who also have experience with social media.  Most of us recognize the power of social media, but are still trying to figure it out.  

We are at a significant juncture with social media and I believe the SMILE conference could very well set an important course for us.  I hope to see you in DC.