Police learn how to use social media to bypass reporters

RIchmond Times-Dispatch | Poynter
Police at a Richmond, Va., conference that proposed to “arm” them with “the practical knowledge to enter the social media world with confidence” are getting a good lesson in controlling stories: While Monday’s session was open to the news media, Zachary Reid reports for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions are reserved for law-enforcement professionals.

Galax, Va., Police Chief Rick Clark told the conference “he was lucky to work in a town without a daily newspaper or television station,” Reid writes.

He said he thought his department’s website was his town’s news source, at least on police information.


That approach typifies one of the reasons cops are enthusiastic about social media: It allows them to bypass reporters. Last June David Krajicek wrote about police departments’ use of social media and said police love the ability to get their side of a story out. Krajicek quoted Eric Hartley, then a reporter for The Capital of Annapolis, Md., who’d written that social media allowed police “a façade of openness.”

Social media can also be a law-enforcement tool as well as a challenge for police. One vendor at the conference offered “a service that allows police departments to monitor Twitter feeds for criminal activity,” Reid writes. And Del Quentin Wilber wrote this past March about Mark Pray, who tweeted and updated Facebook despite being held in Washington, D.C.’s jail while facing multiple charges of murder and racketeering. (Pray was convicted.)

Wilber later wrote that prisons have fostered a thriving trade in contraband smart phones, and “the largest and most reliable source of such devices for inmates are corrupt guards.”

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  • Roman Kuznetsov
  • http://howardowens.com Howard Owens

    A police chief notes the lack of detailed professional news coverage of his department, so he turns to soial media and the conclusion from Andrew is that police are enthusiastic about social media because it allows them to by pass reporters.

    Wrong conclusion.

    The correct conclusion is that if somebody isn’t providinng aggressive online coverage of police activity, law enforcement will seek alternative means to inform the public.

    In Genesee Ccounty, The Batavian enjoys a great working relationship with local law enforcement. Cops on the beat use The Batavian ass a daily briefing sheet to see what was going on while they were off duty. They also use it as a resource to help them solve crimes, providing information to us often firsst before other news outlets because we have such a strong readerhip.

    Local law enforcement bypassing reporters won’t happen where local online news coverage is strong.