Steps Two and Three: Roanoke, Virginia, PD’s Internal and External Strategy to a Successful Social Media Experience

This is a continuation of a previous blog post.

Guest Blogger: Chris Perkins, Chief of Police, Roanoke, Virginia, Police Department

The second step of our strategy was to encourage officers to utilize social media. We made no attempts to discourage the use of social media and offered opportunities for officers to consult with the agency to verify they were within policy. Officers can be granted permission to post uniformed photographs or work comments on a social media page, but they realize that once this is done, they will be accountable for any postings, photographs, or wording as a representative of the agency. If they choose to keep work-related material off the page, they will be accountable for any posting or photographs that would be conduct unbecoming of a law enforcement officer. This provides two approaches to the personal use of social media and provides the employees an opportunity to decide which approach they want to take.

Policies are designed to address reality. We train officers to drive police cars, we give them the ability to decide when to use force, and we provide them with a weapon. We train them because we realize that they will practice what we train. We then write policies to guide those actions. We apply the same logic to social media. It is quickly becoming modern communication for both the old and the new generations and, as a result, we should expect it will be utilized and we should prepare our employees to do so successfully.

The third step of our strategy was to initiate an external agency social media approach. Our focus would be placed on crime prevention, community involvement, and community policing. It was determined that our use of social media could not be dormant and inactive. We made a commitment to make our use of social media a daily interactive page. By consulting our generation of social media users, it was apparent that if we attempt to create a social media presence, we could not afford to be inactive. The key to social media success is to provide current information daily that stimulates the interest of the users. Users of our social media site must feel that they are actively communicating and have the ability to get answers or information without delay. This commitment required a team approach. Vital to our third step was encouraging our employees to follow our department social media sources within their own personal links and devices. Additionally, we allow our Facebook page to be viewed in real time in our patrol lineup rooms on large viewing screens.

The most important aspect to the third step approach is trust from the leadership.

Stay tuned for the fourth step of the Roanoke Police Department’s social media strategy in a blog entry posted later on during IACP 2011.

IACP 2011 continues at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois, through October 26. For information, visit To receive notifications when new blog entries are posted, click the “Follow” button on the upper left of your screen.

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