Police Social Media: A Tool for Community Outreach, Recruitment & Crime Solving!

With today’s speed of information and tech-savvy civilians, social media is not a passing trend. It’s a powerful tool for law enforcement to keep people safe, informed and enlightened about the role of police in everyday society.


So how are agencies using social media to enhance their efforts?


Community Outreach


Social media can take community-oriented policing to the next level. It can help humanize police departments and show that officers are also members of the community they serve.


While many agencies in South Florida rely on their public information office to manage their social media accounts, the Miami Police Department was the first to create a full-time social media team. 


Their role is to produce original video content for the Facebook page and YouTube “vlog.”  Most of these videos provide a behind-the-scenes look at the department’s operations or give viewers public safety tips, but one of the most popular is the “Miami Police Running Man Challenge.”


The Running Man Challenge was popularized by two University of Maryland basketball players, and required that participants film themselves doing a version of the “running man” dance to the ’90s hip-hop song “My Boo.” Miami police accepted the challenge and the video went viral with over 1 million views.


“This was a perfect situation, where it let us reach out to the community and show them there’s another side to police officers,” says Sergeant Misael Reyes, head of the social media department.


The two-minute clip brought millions of people to the Miami Police Department’s Facebook page, allowing police to share more serious messages about things such as life jacket safety and preparing for hurricanes.


Reyes says that law enforcement has been slower than the business world to adopt social media, in part due to an “old school” mentality. But he says tools like Facebook can help return departments to their community policing roots.


Currently, the Miami Police Department has over 100,000 fans on Facebook, and almost 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, so their efforts are working.


A Crime Solving Tool


Police Departments can use their social media accounts to ask followers for tips on crimes, or to provide important warnings/alerts regarding missing children or suspected criminals.


In 2018, New Port Beach Police Department created a podcast called “Countdown to Capture” that followed the case of millionaire Peter Chadwick who was suspected of murdering his wife.


Peter disappeared in 2015 and, with no new leads in the case in years, the police tried this new strategy with the hope that engaging the public would spread awareness so that someone could help bring Chadwick to justice.


Chadwick was captured in Mexico in August 2019 and has been extradited to the US to face trial.


Another case was a 13-year-old boy reported missing, causing the Toledo Police Department (TPD) to immediately turn to Facebook and post a description. Then, in a surprising twist, the boy helped police solve his own reported missing person’s case, all through Facebook.


Not long after TPD’s Facebook post went up, the missing boy responded from his own Facebook account, saying he was OK. “I’ll be home tonight,” the boy wrote in the now-deleted series of posts.


TPD spokesman, Sgt. Kevan Toney, who manages the department’s account followed by over 94,000 Facebook users, encouraged the boy to call the police, saying that officers would give him a ride back home. 


Eventually, the boy sent a private message to the department’s account. “We communicated with him that way,” Sergeant Toney said. “A family member ended up calling, we were able to meet up with the boy and he is no longer a missing person.”



(Image source: taskandpurpose.com)


According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are now the largest living generation in the US. There are 75.4 million millennials in the country, making up an ever-increasing portion of the workforce. Therefore, police departments must learn to recruit effectively, train, and retain millennial police officers.


The Fort Worth Police Department has done exactly that by boosting its social media game with “Star Wars”-themed recruitment videos.


The agency featured Darth Vader interviewing for a position at the Fort Worth Police Department, and in a second video a stormtrooper tries to impress an officer at the shooting range. But, like in the Star Wars movies, the stormtrooper was not a good shooter and misses every attempt he makes.


The iconic scrolling text at the end urges: “Join our Force! If you have what it takes to be a Fort Worth Police Officer and are a better aim than a Stormtrooper.” 


The video went viral with over 21 million views and more than 19,000 comments on Facebook.

Related Articles