Why community engagement through social media is important for public safety agencies

In early 2004 Facebook made its debut. Back then, Facebook was a social network for college students. I’m sure that no one imagined we’d be talking about the importance Facebook would play for police agencies in 2018. Facebook and other social media platforms are the modern day “cop shop.” But let’s face it, everyone is on Facebook…even your grandma!

Police agencies across the country are seeing cuts in both manpower and budgets. While at the same time, those agencies are expected to do more with less. The reality is that your department is busy handling calls for service. Not only are calls for service on the rise, but the need for pro-active police work is equally relevant. With a greater percentage of your department’s manpower focused on actual crime, what’s that leave to focus on interacting with your community?

Community engagement is important! The community we serve needs to understand the department’s mission and who the men and women are behind the badge. When a person calls 911, they’re in a moment of crisis. The officers responding to the call are usually met with extreme emotion, whether it’s sadness, anger, or fear, it’s rarely a time to make a good connection. Although these moments can sometimes turn into stories of how amazing the officer was, they’re usually masked by the severity of the situation itself. The next factor to consider is the large percentage of your community that never calls 911, or has 911 called on them. How do those citizens develop their image of your department?

The truth is the man who receives a speeding ticket from the “rude” or “heartless” cop is much more likely to post on social media than the majority of your routine 911 runs. Your department’s image is already being developed on social media whether you’re involved or not. Social media helps an agency level the playing field. A presence on social media can help control your department’s image. You’ll get the chance to read, respond to, and mend any negative views that might get shared on social media.

Utilizing social media to properly engage your community can be a major win. You’ll create a fan base. Your community will feel closer to you; they’ll begin to trust you more. These connections will bring more support when you need it and allow your officers to better perform their jobs in the neighborhoods they serve.

For more information plan to attend one of our upcoming Police Social Media Seminars.