Social media expands role of Duluth community policingGORDON RAMSAY: Social media has forever changed the way we police.
By: Gordon Ramsay, for the Budgeteer
Social media has forever changed the way we police. While I was attending Duluth schools in the 1980s, information moved at a snail’s pace compared to what happens in schools today. When I was a school resource officer in the ’90s, information was moving a little faster with pagers and cell phones, but very few students had them. Today, most kids have cell phones and receive information instantly through texts, email, Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
Today, when fellow students are not getting along, everyone knows. Rumors (true or false) are spread to hundreds of people with the press of a button. Within minutes, thousands of people can know about a major incident. I hear stories weekly about Facebook postings by kids that would never be allowed by a responsible parent.
Many kids are posting their bad behavior on YouTube that no doubt would make their families ashamed. Parents need to be involved in their kids’ Facebook, smart phone, and computer activity. Your involvement might keep them out of trouble and could save their lives. SafetyWeb.com or SocialShield.com are worth checking out for any parent with a teenage child.
People can post anything on social media sites regardless of facts. I have seen a few stories now posted by folks who should be embarrassed about their behavior, but instead choose to blame others and tweak stories so they don’t look as if they were the ones who did something wrong. Don’t like someone? More and more folks are choosing to blast others via YouTube and Facebook.
We recently implemented a policy setting up rules for police staff and the use of social media on and off duty. Why, you might ask? Well, we have seen officers across the country get in trouble for comments on social networking sites. Some are related to sensitive investigations, some have posted work-related photos, and others have posted things that severely discredit them and their agencies.
Our staff work very hard every day to serve and build relationships with members of our community and those efforts can quickly be washed away by an
officer who uses poor judgment in a comment on Facebook or some other site.
The evolution of social media is not all bad. We have found it is a great way to expand community policing efforts by informing and interacting with the public. We are nearing 5,000 followers on the Duluth Police Facebook page. We post press releases as well as engage the public in other ways on our policing and crime prevention efforts.
Folks ask questions, compliment, complain and comment on our efforts. It has been a great way to engage people we would not normally have contact with. We also use Twitter and I blog several times a week on public safety issues we face.
Our latest innovative tool to increase our effort to reduce crime is called iWatchDuluth.com, a virtual crime watch that you and your neighbors can use to report behaviors and activities that make you feel uncomfortable or which do not look right. It is also a community awareness program that educates the community about suspicious activities and criminal behaviors. iWatchDuluth is a convenient way to provide tips and leads to police concerning crime that is affecting your neighborhoods.
In addition to iWatchDuluth, we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, blogging and tip-texting to increase awareness and interaction with you. All of these sites can be accessed from the police department’s web page. I can’t help but
wonder where we’ll be in another five
Contact Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay at 730-5020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.