This will likely be easier to do with specific public safety problems than it will with overall police-community relationships. Take for example, the need to end vehicle fatalities on a particular road. The three-pronged “education, engineering, enforcement” approach might link online educational elements (videos, tweets, blog posts, etc.) to driving behavior—and perhaps even enforcement metrics. A drop in ticketing for certain violations could be strongly correlated to education.
2. Whether your long-term goals are reactive, or proactive.
Many police departments in recent years have shifted back towards a reactive policing strategy. The above example is an example of that: it's about solving a specific problem. What happens when fatalities end on that stretch of road? Will the online education and engagement continue around traffic safety? How might you adapt your campaign to be more generalized, yet still interesting to the citizens who are participating?
You might have guessed by now that online engagement isn't an end in itself—it's part of a broader picture. Not long ago, Governing magazine reported that Washington, DC police chief Cathy Lanier had changed her agency's strategy from zero-tolerance, hot-spot policing to engagement:
“Instead of cracking down on minor disorder in high-crime neighborhoods,” the article reported, “she encouraged patrol officers to develop sources. At the same time, the department embraced social media and encouraged a savvy population to engage with police in new ways.”
Merging online with offline engagement, and short-term with long-term programs, can take considerable thought and effort. However, it's necessary to prove that what you're doing is much more than “just a fad.”
About The Author:
Christa M. Miller is a freelance writer based in Greenville, S.C. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at email@example.com.