This morning on Mashable I read a story in which a police depart contacted a mother via Facebook to inform her that her son had passed away. No other contact was made at that time. Because the mother was not Facebook friends with the local PD, their private message ended up in Facebook’s secluded “other” folder and was not seen for nearly a month.

In light of this, I think we should discuss a few of the basic dos and don’ts of social media for law enforcement.

DON’T: Contact Individuals

Given my initial reason for writing this post, I start off by reminding law enforcement that this is a big no-no. Any important information should be conveyed in person or over the phone. Social media may be easy and convenient to use, but it’s also less secure and completely inappropriate in most situations.

DO: Keep the Public Informed and Leverage Social Media

With social media integrated into the lives of so many people, it is a great way to quickly and effectively issue important information, such as emergency warnings, to the public.

Social media  helps police officers do their job.

The same attributes that make Facebook and Twitter useful for informing the public also make them useful for involving the public. Since they are widely-used and frequently-checked, Facebook and Twitter are an excellent way to keep everyone on the lookout and quickly disperse vital information in an effort to solve missing person cases, robberies, etc.

Having a large community following on the local police department’s Twitter account can be beneficial in keep citizens safe and involved.

DO: Monitor Social Channels for Criminal Activity

Believe it or not, not every criminal is also a mastermind. Many have been caught and prosecuted after posting their crimes on social media. Monitoring social media channels can be a great way for both citizens and law enforcement to be proactive when it comes to solving or preventing crime. Citizens should be encouraged to keep an eye out and report anything that seems suspicious.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Photopin

Jamie Bates