THUNDER BAY – Crimebeat – The move by police services into social media is continuing. The “Social Media Internet Law Enforcement” or SMILE Conference is underway in Vancouver. “Adoption of social media by law enforcement is in a stage of exponential growth. Some law enforcement agencies have already experienced tremendous successes; while others are ready but don’t know how to get started. The law enforcement field is ready to add another weapon to its arsenal”.
Understanding of new media, social media, and the Internet as a communications tool is something that police services across Canada are moving toward.
In Thunder Bay, the speed of social media is far faster than any of the traditional media. Several months ago, there was a raid on a number of homes in a drug investigation. The Thunder Bay Police Service in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Toronto Police Service and the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service dismantled a complex drug distribution network. Six Thunder Bay men were arrested in city wide raids on Thursday June 16, 2011.
Within moments, the information was being shared by local residents on Facebook and Twitter. The secrecy of police in Operation Dolphin ended with that first tweet. Understanding that kind of information speed is something that police services need to realize is likely happening.
That speed of communications of actions by police for example mean that it is likely unless the timing of similar operations in the future are tightly co-ordinated that officer safety could be put at risk.
For many police services, moving past the mode of being a para-military service and embracing the new and fast growing online world is difficult. Police services in many communities have adopted very successful social media incursions.
Police services in Toronto, Chatham-Kent, Vancouver and many others across Canada are seeing that the real risk is in ignoring social media.
They represent the new face of policing. Although, in many ways, it is really a return to the origins of policing, where people got to know the ‘beat cop’ who served in their neighbourhood. Today, with a solid social media strategy, police are better outfitted to talk with the people they serve on a daily basis.
The Smile Conference is offering needed training in this new and bold move forward. It is positive to see how many police services are adopting new tools to help keep our communities safer.