Over the years, law enforcement has adopted social media in many different ways -- and a new report discusses in depth just how the tool can be used to support police work.

The study, called Best Practice in Police Social Media Adaptation, is part of a larger project called Comparative Police Studies in the EU (COMPOSITE) that aims to understand organizational change in European police operations -- but that doesn't mean the findings can't help law enforcement in the U.S.

The report showed that the use of social media by police has many different benefits and highlighted those benefits through real-world examples. It also outlines nine areas where social media can be used by law enforcement to improve operations, with brief examples and analysis of each. The nine areas are:

  • As a Source of Criminal Information
  • As a Voice in Social Media
  • To Push Information
  • To Leverage the Wisdom of the Crowd
  • To Interact with the Public
  • For Community Policing
  • To Show the Human Side of Policing
  • To Support Police IT Infrastructure
  • For Efficient Policing

Despite its name, the report is not intended to be a step-by-step guide outlining best practices, researchers wrote; it is to "present the variety in best practice applied by different forces in different countries,” the report states. “Our report thus functions as a crayon box, a modular toolset, that allows other police forces, researchers and industry to look for solutions that fit their particular needs best.”

While social media can be a powerful tool, particularly for budget-constrained departments, the question of how to best harness social media and integrate its use into daily operations is an open-ended one, according to the report. There are yet undiscovered uses of social media that police could one day use.

The full report is available below:

 
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