It seems like every police department from Mayberry to the NYPD has a Facebook page these days. According to a recent study by LexisNexis, 80% of law enforcement professionals use social media in some capacity to investigate crimes. The potential upside for cops on the eBeat is huge — greater engagement with citizens, access to crime tips, rapid dissemination of emergency information, etc. — but unfortunately, many departments have gone online without a clear strategy in place for managing their social media use. This may not only prevent them from using it effectively, it can also put departments and individual officers at risk.

The good news is, plenty of resources exist to help law enforcement professionals maximize the returns from social media while minimizing the risks. We’ve rounded up five of our favorites.

Social Media and Tactical Considerations For Law Enforcement

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This comprehensive guide was put together by the Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). It features in-depth analysis of real-life examples of successful law enforcement social media programs, and offers advice on creating a social media strategy for your department. This guide includes strategies for police passively using social media to monitor crime as well as tips for active outreach and information sharing.

 

Developing a Policy on the Use of Social Media in Intelligence and Investigative Activities

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This next guide was put together by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Where the COPS/PERF guide deals with a broad range of social media use cases, this resource focuses more narrowly on developing a comprehensive social media policy. It includes a detailed breakdown of important policy components, case law on social media and privacy, and example policies from three agencies.

 
 

Connected COPS

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This blog has been, “law enforcement’s partner on the social web” since 2009. It offers insights and articles from experienced law enforcement professionals on a wide variety topics ranging from augmented reality to YouTube. The site is a project of Lauri Stevens, the creative and strategic mind behind LAwS Communication and the Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement conference (SMILE) . You should bookmark this page to keep up to date on the latest best practices for law enforcement social media.

 

Walking the eBeat: The Smart, Legal Approach to Social Media in Law Enforcement

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This free interactive webinar on Thursday, February 17, 2015 offers you a chance to hear Lauri Stevens and Anil Chawla discuss the issues surrounding law enforcement social media use and ask questions. They will discuss the essential components of a social media policy that protects your department and sets the tone for users, how to plan content and build an engaged audience, why records retention is critical to your social media strategy — especially when moderating content; real legal case studies, and a comparison of archiving solutions for legally protecting your agency. Register here.

 

Social Media Policy Template for Law Enforcement

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If your department needs a policy and doesn’t know where to start, grab this free policy template for law enforcement social media. The information was compiled from several sources including the Cities of Seattle, WA, and Arlington, TX; and the States of Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, and North Carolina. Parts of this document were adapted from the Law Enforcement Agency Facebook Terms developed by Lauri Stevens of LAwS Communications. As each law enforcement agency is different, this template should be modified to fit the needs of your agency. You can download a copy here.