Police departments adopt social media in different ways

03/30/2014 3:02 PM

03/30/2014 3:03 PM

Police departments in Arlington and Fort Worth don’t make daily postings of traffic enforcement locations as their counterparts in Keller and Dallas do, but they leverage social media in other ways.

Social media allows the Police Department to build trust with the public through transparency and information,” said Cpl. Tracey Knight, a Fort Worth police spokeswoman. “ We post press releases, interviews, crime alerts, public safety information, as well as community related posts.

“Social media is particularly useful during a public safety or emergency event — like the recent ice storms. The public was able to get pertinent, reliable and real-time information directly from us and other first responder sites like the Fort Worth Fire Department.”

Since 2011, the Arlington Police Department has been recognized for its use of social media, including “tweetalongs,” traffic tip Tuesdays, fugitive postings on Wednesdays, “Throwback” Thursdays, and “Meet Your Officer” profiles on weekends.

“All of these initiatives humanize police and build trust within the community,” said Lt. Christopher Cook, an Arlington police spokesman. “Our goal is to connect directly with citizens and make them feel like they are part of our overall public safety team.

“You might not be able to attend a community meeting or crime watch group, but most people are able to log into Facebook or Twitter and engage in dialogue with us.”

Such social media efforts are applauded by Phillip Lyons, a professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

But Lyons, a former cop in Alvin who still holds a police officer’s license in Texas, said some departments have been slow to catch onto social media.

“Some are doing it much better than others,” he said. “But I think we’re a bit away from a tipping point just yet.”

Many agencies, he said, are “stuck in the old way of routing everything through the chief of police or the public information office.”

“So there is some tension there. On one hand we want to get it right and, on the other, we want to get it out there right now.

“In many ways, it’s a sort of cost-benefit analysis.”

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