Police and Social Media: Training, 2-Way Communication Called Key


When Arlington, Tx., police officer Zhivonni McDonnell reported for a shift earlier this year, she was armed with one of the Police Department’s newest tools: a smartphone equipped with Twitter. As she accompanied a Citizens on Patrol member that night, McDonnell, the department’s social media specialist, tweeted updates on what they were seeing and doing, giving followers a taste of what the volunteer group does, says the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

The key, said Chyng-Yang Jang of the University of Texas at Arlington’s department of communication, is having personnel who are trained in social media use. “If you’re going to use it to just post information, then I don’t think it will be too effective,” he said. “The real powerful thing is the two-way communication.” Cleveland police used it during an Amber Alert in April and received a tip within a few hours that led to the children’s rescue. In Pennsylvania, a police department made three arrests in one week off leads generated by social media. Recently, one of Denton’s most-wanted misdemeanor fugitives saw his mug shot on the Police Department’s Facebook page and turned himself in, hoping to keep his family and friends from finding out.

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