Social media is becoming a popular tool among law enforcement, and Twitter seems to be the weapon of choice. But is all of this tweeting good or bad for keeping the peace?
Assistant Professor Christopher Schneider of the University of British Columbia collected over 100,000 tweets from the Toronto Police Service, and explored how police officers and institutions used Twitter.
The Toronto Police Service is a big Twitter user, with its officers using Twitter while both on- and off-duty. The majority of the tweets were found to be publicity-related, highlighting the efforts of the force and its officers.
The study also found that many of the off-duty tweets were not work-related. They dealt with topics like family, sports and vacations. This means that the public has insight into the police officers’ personal lives.
The personalization of officers on Twitter could be a good thing, as it connects the public with those who keep order. However, the study suggests that it could also result in undermining their authority.
The study found Twitter to be an effective tool for police to solicit information from the public, as well as give the public advice and warnings during real-time emergencies.
“During a live incident, they can be soliciting tips from the public and it’s also a very immediate way to issue public orders, like: ‘Don’t come out of your house, there’s an active shooter in the neighbourhood. They can do it with traditional media, and they did, but when they do it on social media and Twitter … the information shares a lot more quickly.”
(Police tape image via Shutterstock)