Pew Research Center data reports that more than two-thirds of Internet users are members of at least one social media network or another, a fact that hasn’t escaped local deputies.
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In fact, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies are even leading discussions with other sheriff’s stations on how to expand their community outreach.
The outreach really got under way about four years ago, when Capt. Mike Parker of the Sheriff’s Department’s Headquarters Bureau took the helm under orders from Sheriff Lee Baca to modernize the department’s website and increase its online community presence.
“The reason why the Sheriff’s Department uses all of (these social media outlets) and not one of them is because we’re not focusing on what we want to do,” Parker said, adding it would be easy for him to just use Nixle reports and say that’s how the Sheriff’s Department wants to communicate.
“We’re focusing on what the people want,” Parker said, adding that nowadays, the use of the Internet and social media calls for a multigenerational approach.
“Generationally, some people may want nothing to do with the Internet but they use email,” Parker said. “Kids are graduating away from Facebook, but they’re increasingly using Twitter and Instagram.”
To that end, the Sheriff’s Department has Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts where it puts out its Photo of the Day, and Nixle reports that send alerts via email and text messages, for those who don’t have smartphones.
There’s also a general model or discipline for how a station approaches social media, which has worked well with the department’s efforts to expand this outreach, he said.
“I think we cooperate with the media now more than ever before,” Parker said, adding that at a lot of station’s where he’s seen social media used successfully, such as the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, there’s generally one or two deputies who are in charge of getting the message out, and those deputies are trusted by the station’s captain to do so.
For the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, it’s Deputy Josh Dubin and Sgt. Darren Harris.
“(Baca) really wanted us to get really involved in this and localize this effort, which is what you see in Santa Clarita,” Parker said. “It’s a really good example of what can be done.”
One of the bigger challenges is the fact that when people have the greatest demand for information, i.e. in an emergency, it’s often when deputies or officers have the least amount of time to address public questions.
Parker frequently teaches courses to other law enforcement officials that address these concerns, and has now seen the mentality change from why do I need to do this to how can we get this done, among the law enforcement and emergency management community.
“We’ve taught that to more than 1,000 peace officers, conservatively, to 150 police agencies from 6 countries,” Parker said. “We’re not saying we know everything — we’re just willing to share what we do know.”
Social media is a constantly growing and expanding media, and Vine, 6-second video clips, are one of the newer outlets that the Sheriff’s Department is looking at, as it does with all new media.
And countywide, deputies share information on how they are using social media on a stationwide level.
Sheriff’s stations in West Hollywood and Altadena have recently met with Harris and Dubin, to discuss efficient ways to get information out to the public.
“Deputies occasionally meet to discuss and share ideas on how to increase the presence in the community they serve, as well as connect with people,” Dubin said.
“Social media is a great way to do that because it’s accessible to so many people,” he said, “and I think that’s why you’re seeing more and more law enforcement agencies throughout the country joining up to get the word out and reach their communities.”
West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station Capt. Gary Honings is in charge of one of the stations that recently met with SCV deputies.
“In the beginning, we’re starting with very grassroots stuff — sinkholes, emergencies, (Nixle reports),” Honings said.“It’s important to see where we can start and where we can go. For us, it’s a work in progress.”
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies are part of a growing number, according to most research.
“Transparency is very important in order to have credibility in the community we serve and that’s one of the reasons why we put out as much as we can on Twitter and Facebook,” Dubin said.
And the effort is one that each station intends to expand upon, Honings said.
Four-of-every-five law enforcement officials use social media in their investigations, according to a recent report by Lexis-Nexis.
“Those respondents under age 55, more experienced investigators and those in supervisory positions are significantly more likely to use social media for investigations,” according to the report.
Much of this comes without formal training, as more than 80 percent of law enforcement officers are self-taught on social media.
This may be changing, as there’s now even a national conference for law enforcement officers: Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement, that discusses how officers and deputies can exchange ideas on fighting crime.
Nearly 75 percent of officers expect that usage to increase in the next year.
Currently on the national level, about 85 percent of social media uses are to identify “persons of interest” in a particular crime, according to the same report.
However, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deputies also see more of a “grassroots” nature to social media use.
“Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies, with a lot of support from the city of Santa Clarita, saw the positives with the use of our social media, which actually started about five years ago, with the use of SCVSheriff.com,” Dubin said. “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, which is why we plan to continue to grow this program with the Sheriff’s Department.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News