Social Media in Law Enforcement – The Good and the Bad?


By: Sun Choy
It was only a matter of time before the explosion of social media made its way into law enforcement. I read an interesting article in Forbes about the first police department in the United States to launch a Weibo account. What’s a Weibo account? It’s a Chinese “microblogging system similar to Twitter.” The hope is to use the service to promote communication with local business owners through their native language. With increasing ethnic diversity across the country, this use of social media makes sense, especially given the challenges to community policing created by language barriers.
In another use of social media, I read an article about the chief of the Dallas police department using his Twitter account to shame demoted and fired officers. In 140 characters or less, the chief identifies the officer by name and explains the basis for his employment decision. The chief believes the tweets promote transparency with the public. Not surprisingly, the police union has criticized this practice. Has the chief gone too far? I suspect the verdict will ultimately be rendered in the court of public opinion.