Throughout 2012 police forces around the world have started embracing social media to mostly positive effect. In Seattle for example, the police force have a crime blog of happenings within the city featuring CCTV footage of crimes in progress with links and phone numbers for contacting the police if any visitors to the site spot’s the suspects on the blog. On a humorous note, one U.S. police force had to issue twitter apologies after a child of one of the police accidentally tweeted his angry birds score through the official police twitter feed.
In Europe, the UK’s police have been using social media to similar effect even if in the first month of 2013 there has been at least one slightly less than positive result. On January 7th, an Aberdeen resident Lesley Ross found her Audi had been stolen while she and her husband were out. After reporting the crime, she was visited by the police, fingerprints and a statement was taken and they left. Lesley took to Facebook to appeal for help tracing her stolen car. Within an hour her Facebook feed had over 100 posts about the incident and she had gathered very good information on where her car was, how the police could recover it and arrest the thieves quite quickly. Unfortunately, her car had been torched, and controversy remains about the role some comments on social media played in fuelling the thieves actions.
The range of case studies and conferences on role of social media in law enforcement suggests there is much interest in doing better. However, the normal pace of change will not be sufficient. Officers and their support networks will need to re-think their approach to win.