Click here to read an online extra to complement "The electronic beat"!
With the plethora of social media outlets, Officer.com and LET (Page 80) have recently reported how investigators and officers can utilize the information for enforcement and safety. But given the quantity of sites in the e-World and the limited amount of time an officer has, agencies keeping up with social media run the risk of spreading themselves too thin.
It may be best to track which sites are most popular or hold the best bounty of useful data and limit an electronic beat to those sites. For example, interacting with the community to determine if Facebook.com is trendier than LiveJournal.com in the area. Just as in the physical world, police presence can't be everywhere at once. Prioritizing sites and electronic time is vital to making the best use of online portals such as MySpace.com, Twitter.com, etc.
Agencies utilizing sites like Twitter or MySpace should also be explicit in describing the purpose and mission of the site. For example, most agencies don't have the kind of manpower to accept tips or complaints via Twitter, but using it to promote positive stories about the agency, as Anne Schwartz, communications director at Milwaukee PD, says the department does, is an efficient use of the space. Indicating the correct avenue to direct tips or communication with the department on the site should circumvent communication overload from readers.
Police departments and news agencies alike are just tapping into some of these resources and share the common goal of interacting with users or the community in a space while economizing time. It's a balance that will need to evolve with time and experience.
P.S. On the subject of Internet resources, I'd like to highlight a couple new features the Cygnus Law Enforcement Group has incorporated to better serve you.
For details on Property Room, Officer.com's participation in social networking sites, LET's new online-only content, and more, visit www.officer.com/publication and click on the "More Online!" icon.