Social Media Helps Law Enforcement Explain and Elaborate

It’s easy enough to point out today’s social media slip up and one seems to happen daily, It’s good to hear about them so we can learn from them – as appropriate. But there are also plenty of good uses of social media out there , including by law enforcement agencies in Iowa’s Creative Corridor, which includes Cedar Rapids and Marion.

Two instances happened on Dec. 27, 2014.

Cedar Rapids: That squad car is parked in a handicapped spot

Somebody took a picture of a Cedar Rapids Police cruiser parked in a handicapped spot at a convenience store. Somebody posted the picture on Facebook.

People can draw conclusions from the picture, for example, that police officers don’t have to follow the same laws as everyone else. But, as I’ve mentioned here before in my post on a black boy and a white police officer hugging, pictures might be worth a thousand words, but sometimes they need a few more actual words to accompany them to add the relevant context. So that’s what  was done by Cedar Rapids Police, an agency that had just joined Facebook and Twitter a few weeks before this picture was posted.

So, here’s what they did., They reposted the picture and explained the situation:

A police officer was responding to a theft in progress call and parked as quickly as she could so she could get the situation under control. In this case she ended up in the handicapped spot. She could have also ended up in the middle of the parking lot, blocking in other cars. She was responding to a crime in progress, after all.

Law enforcement social media - cruiser in handcapped spot

Well done, CRPD. Transparent, quick to publication and very informational. How easy is it to laugh at the picture without the added context, right? Easy breezy.  But the additional context explains. This context and the post as a whole are great because:

  • It’s educational for the general public. Officers will park wherever they can to get to an emergency as quickly as possibly. (Thank you!)
  • Things really aren’t as they seem a lot of times. Now, how could this kind of situation be handled differently by the person who takes a photo like this? They could take the photo, post it and tag the police agency, asking why the police cruiser is parked in that spot. CRPD could have then responded and explained the situation. See how that’s a whole different discussion? The key is still that the agency responds quickly. Sending a news release on Monday wouldn’t do the trick.
  • It also shows how much people appreciate context. As I’m writing this, the post had been shared around 80 times and has been liked over 1,100 times. Wow! Many social media managers would be jealous of those kind of numbers.
  • It shows us that you can’t please everyone. Some of the comments posted are just a bit argumentative. Some of those people are picking words apart and are continuing to question – despite there not being anything to be questioned at this point. Some people are calling it trolling. You can’t please everyone and not everyone will agree!

[Tweet “Transparency – and especially in the moment – outweighs not everyone being in agreement.”]

AUDIO EXTRA: WMT Radio interview on this incident

Marion: All traffic lights are on red!

Marion, Iowa, a neighboring town to Cedar Rapids, and that’s where the next social media success story is coming from.

I was driving through downtown Marion, when all traffic lights turned to red. Seconds later a Marion police cruiser screamed through the area with lights and sirens. I did notice the traffic lights all being on red and from my time as a police reporter in the 2000’s I vaguely remember Marion police being able to turn them to red when needed. With a kid in the back, it felt safe, so I Tweeted this below after stopping:

law enforcement social media - Marion Iowa

As you see from the screen shot, Marion Police also handled this information in a great way. They acknowledged the system and explained it a bit further. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with educating people about what an agency is doing.

It was great to see two responsive, prompt and educational social media interactions by law enforcement agencies.

I’m hoping that this will continue and that others will follow the lead…

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