The Washington Post has weighed in on police departments’ inviting the public to join them in online discussion groups, participate in social networking, and even help solve crimes. Residents in Madison, Wi., can sign up for e-mails from their local police districts. In Los Angeles, residents can sign up for a program called e-policing, and officers will send them electronic newsletters about crime trends and other police issues.
By using technology to inform the public, police departments are bringing officers closer to the people they serve, in part by demystifying the policing process, said Chuck Wexler of the Police Research Executive Forum. “There’s greater interaction, greater communication, and things can get done in a very timely manner,” Wexler said. “The only real downside is managing expectations. Just because someone can send an e-mail doesn’t mean that the problem will get fixed.”