- Contact Name: Communications Director, PIO Lynn Hightower
- Contact Phone: 208.570.6180
- Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: 9/6/2010
The Boise, Idaho, Police Department (BPD) consists of 320 sworn officers and 80 civilian employees. The department serves a population of approximately 250,000, in the diverse community that blends a college town with a top ranked retirement location. This highly connected city is home to several major high tech corporations including HP and Micron as well as several smaller technology firms.
BPD began utilizing social media tools as part of their communication strategy around 2009. BPD officials saw an opportunity to communicate with a larger and more diverse demographic through social media and with the growing user statistics, they knew they would be remiss to pass over these new technologies. Communications Director, Lynn Hightower, began researching popular social media platforms, examining what other law enforcement agencies were doing with social media, as well as speaking with marketing professionals to get a private sector perspective of the possible uses of these tools. After this thorough assessment, BPD decided upon the most popular and growing sites where they could get “the most bang for their buck.” They currently use Facebook, Twitter, Nixle, and YouTube as a part of their social media strategy.
BPD monitors usage statistics of their social media sites using an application called Insights. Currently, these statistics are used to raise awareness as well as for recruitment purposes. When budgets improve and allow for additional initiatives, these statistics will be used for target marketing. The Insights application is currently available for Facebook and YouTube, and similar analytic tools such as Google Analytics can be used to generate useful statistics on other sites.
One challenge the BPD has faced is finding the appropriate tone when communicating through social media channels. Striking a balance between professional and casual conversation can be difficult. Further, the use of humor can be a great tool, but difficult to gauge.
Another challenge revolves around internal education. This issue is two pronged. First, it is necessary to educate the department on why the official use of social media is important to the overall communications and outreach strategies. Secondly, BPD recognizes that there is another side to social media and that is its use by officers on a personal level. A primary concern of departments is and has always been protecting its officers. This safety concern now extends from the physical environment into virtual space. Educating officers on online safety has therefore become paramount.
Chief Michael Masterson has embraced the use of social media within the BPD. While law enforcement is typically hesitant to embrace a major change such as this, the BPD is following the mission of the department and moving forward with social media.