Monday, December 14, 2009

One County Agency Successfully Makes Use of a New Communications Tool

The introductory statement in Chapter 54, Public Information of the Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies, 5th Edition states, “agencies have an obligation to inform the public and news media of events that affect the lives of citizens in the community with openness and candor.”

While most agencies rely on the news media for the release of such information, there are a number of other available ways and means an agency can enhance the flow of real-time critical information to key members and key segments of their community. The Chesterfield, Missouri Police Department, a CALEA Accredited Flagship agency, recently began utilizing the internet social networking tool “Twitter” to do just that. And so far, it has proven to be rather successful!

The internet Twitter system is referred to as a social networking tool that allows one to provide information to their “followers” in the form of short text messages of up to 140 characters. Technophobic? Technologically challenged? Don’t worry. Not all technological communications advances are complicated. And nothing could be easier to implement or to operate than a Twitter program in your department.

Here’s how the Chesterfield Police Department’s program works: The department first established a Twitter account online at After testing it in-house for a week to make sure all the bugs had been worked out, we made a public announcement and encouraged residents and business owners to create their own Twitter account so that they could sign on as a “follower” of the Chesterfield Police Department. Those who are logged on as Chesterfield Police Department followers may receive Twitter update messages either via their personal computer or, as was encouraged, by means of a text message directly to their cell phone.

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