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Survey of Official & Unofficial Law Enforcement Twitter Accounts in Canada, the United Kingdom, & the United States

Survey of Official & Unofficial Law Enforcement Twitter Accounts in Canada, the United Kingdom, & the United States

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To use Twitter to its fullest potential for public communications, emergency management, and other functions, law enforcement agencies must first understand the medium -- not only how citizens use it, but also how their peers use it both officially and unofficially. This study, a survey of 1,089 police and police-related Twitter accounts, used 25 different criteria to show how agencies and officers are using Twitter, where they can improve, and implications for their future use.

Keywords: law enforcement, Twitter, crisis informatics, social media policy, third-party Twitter
tools, public information, community relations
To use Twitter to its fullest potential for public communications, emergency management, and other functions, law enforcement agencies must first understand the medium -- not only how citizens use it, but also how their peers use it both officially and unofficially. This study, a survey of 1,089 police and police-related Twitter accounts, used 25 different criteria to show how agencies and officers are using Twitter, where they can improve, and implications for their future use.

Keywords: law enforcement, Twitter, crisis informatics, social media policy, third-party Twitter
tools, public information, community relations

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09/17/2013

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A Survey of Official and UnofficialLaw Enforcement TwitterAccounts in Canada, the UnitedKingdom, and the United States
A Report of
Laura MadisonChrista M. MillerChris Worden
© 2010 Canadian Association of Police on Social Media
 
CAPSM provides leadership for law enforcement on the proven, reliable and most effective bestpractices for Internet based communication tools relating to both internal and external purposes,and to advocate for the use such technologies for the communities they serve and the membersthey represent.
TABLE OF CONTENTS 
Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………………………….3Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………..3Background………………………………………………………………………………………………..4Internet Usage……………………………………………………………………………………4Twitter Usage…………………………………………………………………………………….5International Twitter Usage……………………………………………………………………..5Methodology………………………………………………………………………………………………6Results……………………………………………………………………………………………………..7Authoritative Visuals: Use of Twitter Features………………………………………………..8Use of Third-Party Tools……………………………………………………………………….11Tweet Automation………………………………………………………………………………13Legal Disclaimers and Policy………………………………………………………………….13Twitter Activity and Subject Matter……………………………………………………………14Conclusions and Recommendations………………………………………………………………….19References……………………………………………………………………………………………….21Appendix…………………………………………………………………………………………………22
 
ABSTRACT
To use Twitter to its fullest potential for public communications, emergency management, andother functions, law enforcement agencies must first understand the medium -- not only howcitizens use it, but also how their peers use it both officially and unofficially. This study, a surveyof 1,089 police and police-related Twitter accounts, used 25 different criteria to show howagencies and officers are using Twitter, where they can improve, and implications for their futureuse.
Keywords: law enforcement, Twitter, crisis informatics, social media policy, third-party Twitter tools, public information, community relations 
INTRODUCTION
The way law enforcement agencies use social networking for public relations andcommunications is not well understood. It is easy to look at a handful of Twitter and Facebookaccounts, and think they represent all law enforcement agencies on those particular socialnetworks, whether they are active or inactive or positive or negative in tone.However, this does a disservice to the 1,000+ law enforcement agencies and officers on Twitter,as well as the communities they serve. The fact is that agencies approach the way they usethese tools in a variety of ways: personal accounts both official and unofficial; official departmentaccounts; via mobile devices, third-party tools and the basic web interface; and in conjunctionwith other social networks. They may assign one person or a team to maintain their accounts,opt for a positive or neutral tone, or try an account briefly before ending its use.The goal of this study is to refine our current understanding of the way law enforcementagencies in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom use the social networking toolTwitter. Popular because of its messages’ brevity, Twitter allows for one-to-manycommunication, at the same time facilitating an unprecedented means for two-waycommunication between police and public.Currently, most if not all analysis of law enforcement Twitter use is qualitative and anecdotal.This study quantifies that use and analyzes levels of engagement, such that law enforcementcommanders, public information officers, members of the media, and members of the public(among others) will be able to assess their local agencies’ and officers’ use compared to others’.The study will also help police to develop best practices regarding Twitter use, whether personalor official.Researchers wanted to find out whether police users:
Fully utilized Twitter’s many features, such as professionally made backgrounds andappropriate avatars, to create a better sense of engagement with their followers.
Accessed Twitter via the standard web interface, or used third-party and mobile-device

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