*|MC_PREVIEW_TEXT|*Power of video | Dangers of Parler | BWCs & memory
November 18, 2020 | View as webpage

There are only so many minutes in a day. Actually, 1440 minutes to be precise. Here are some more 60-second facts:
  • 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • Americans spend an average of 123 minutes on social media every day.
  • Facebook users total 266 minutes a week scrolling through their feeds.
What does this mean for law enforcement? As you know, the digital arena is a great place to connect with your communities, but it is critical to have a strategy that maximizes personnel time and ensures community members spend their social media minutes viewing your agency’s content.

In today’s Leadership Briefing, Wausau Police Chief Benjamin Bliven details how his agency implemented a video production strategy he terms “digital community policing” that is helping to build relationships, increase community trust and humanize his officers. Yael Bar-tur, a social media consultant and former director of social media and digital strategy for the NYPD, cautions PDs about diluting messaging on new platforms like Parler when community members are primarily using more established sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Where do you spend your minutes on social media? Email your favorite sites and social media apps to editor@police1.com.

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Stay safe,

Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1

Video is a critical part of community policing
By Benjamin Bliven 

Every day in America, police officers make communities safer, solve problems, connect those in need to resources and, quite literally, save people’s lives. Police officers are humble, service-oriented, courageous and selfless. Yet, some community members attack the entire profession.

It is our job, as public safety leaders, to tell the stories of police officers in a way that is engaging, sincere and informative. If we do not, we are failing our officers. They deserve our best efforts to positively impact how Americans feel about their police.

Leverage the power of video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth? We often see police body-worn camera videos or citizen cellphone videos go viral because of their content. These videos show the grittiness and intensity of policing under extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes we look good and other times not. Let’s not leave it up to citizens to engage communities through videos. Let’s take the initiative to create a positive narrative ourselves.

Police have been using social media to educate and inform citizens about the “why” behind police actions and policies. Digital marketing professionals will tell you that social media messaging is viewed more often if there is a photo associated with the text in a post. But videos are rated even higher than photos by social media users. So how can we leverage videos and social media within law enforcement to build trust and educate our community about our profession? It is a critical piece of community policing in the 21st century.

How we handle video production

A couple of years ago, one of our supervisors started creating no-budget videos about important topics using basic video editing software. The goal of these videos was to inform, educate and engage community members about the many aspects of law enforcement.

These videos range from a “Chiefs Chat” where the chief dives deep into topics such as police use of force, officer-involved shootings and armored vehicles, to a simple introduction of an officer on the department. These videos allow us to communicate in-depth to our community about important topics. The videos humanize law enforcement, increase understanding of our policies and practices, build trust and are a key component of our community-oriented policing philosophy.

Currently, we employ a part-time person for 20 hours per week to produce videos recruited from the videography program at a local technical college. Our total budget is about $15,000 annually. We invested in some equipment and video editing software as well. The videographer works with a member of our leadership team to develop the concepts for each video. The videographer is then tasked with the production and editing of the video. Final edit authority of each video rests with our leadership team prior to distribution on social media.

The videos are shared on a variety of social media pages including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The posts with videos receive a great community response and provide us the opportunity to interact with our community in a new way. The vast majority of views occur on these social media pages, but we also maintain a YouTube channel that contains more than 100 videos. The YouTube channel allows us to easily share a video link with a citizen, elected officials, or police recruit.

focusing on recruitment

An example of community education we have done using video is around our hiring process.

A key component of building trust within our communities is hiring and retaining the right people. We spend an inordinate amount of time recruiting, vetting and hiring the best people. Our process for hiring is intensive and far more in-depth than most private-sector jobs. We know the character of the police officers in our building because we have read the background and psychological reports, conducted multiple interviews and often conducted a polygraph examination. But community members are often not aware of our in-depth hiring process, partly because we don’t educate our communities about the tremendous scrutiny in our hiring practices.

Here are two videos that outline that process:


Additional video examples 

Here are examples of some of the things we have done through video and social media.

We have started live-streaming all of our press conferences on social media and putting the press conference on our YouTube channel:

We share educational videos:



We also share the heroic work of officers:

And of course, some funny stuff:

And a video that is both educational AND funny (watch the former Mayor’s reaction to getting pasted in the back of the head with a snowball):

You can gain tremendous community engagement via video. This is digital community policing. Give it a try. You won’t regret it!

NEXT: Calif. agency's video series focuses on facilitating an open dialogue

How to Meet Rising Standards in Public Safety Delivery

This webinar series highlights four technologies your agency can quickly deploy to help raise the bar in hiring, training, corrections and policy management practices.
Learn more and register
Why law enforcement shouldn’t be tempted by Parler (or any other echo chamber)
By Yael Bar-tur 

As frustration with social media discourse continues to grow, many people are announcing that they have found a new online home; a tech utopia where speech is as free as freedom gets, and you can say whatever you want without fear of being censored or canceled.

In recent weeks, Parler has become known as an alternative to existing social media channels, after many conservative and right-leaning commentators announced they are leaving Twitter and Facebook, citing censorship from the social media giants as the reason for the departure.

The mass exodus definitely had an impact. The Parler app soared to the top of the download charts, and its membership sky-rocketed from about 4.5 million to 10 million in the course of a week.

What is Parler?

Launched in 2018, Parler is a social media app created by University of Denver graduates Rebekah Matze and Jared Thomson reports CNET.

Parler works in a similar way to Twitter. Users follow accounts and content appears in a feed. Posts can be up to 1,000 characters and users can upload photos, GIFs and memes. 

The app’s “echo" feature – which uses a megaphone icon – enables users to share information like Twitter’s retweet functionality.

"John and I started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended, and also to create a social media environment that would protect data privacy," Mercer said in a statement on the platform.

Why are social media users choosing Parler?

The criticism of social media platforms, particularly Twitter and Facebook, isn’t unjustified.

Over the last few months, especially leading up to the election, these sites have been inconsistent in fact-checking and non-transparent with content moderation, often taking editorial liberties to limit and remove user content. What seems at times like completely arbitrary guidelines could be either a result of growing pains or a top-down agenda, depending on who you ask.

In that sense, Parler may appear like a great replacement. The app's setup and user interface are very easy: People can follow, post and “echo” (share) information in an intuitive way, with little to no editorial restrictions. It’s like Twitter, but open to all content and with no one in Silicon Valley interfering. As a result, it’s also becoming increasingly more popular among free-speech conservatives, many of who view law enforcement positively.

Three considerations before switching social media platforms

It may be tempting to make the switch to a seemingly pro-police platform, one devoid of some of the harsh criticisms we can see in other places, but if you’re considering joining Parler, you should keep a few things in mind:

1. Where is your audience?

First of all, your most important factor in deciding which social media platform to use for your agency is where your audience is. Unless you have a decent-sized public information department with room to spread its wings, you should focus on the platforms where you will get the best access to your community, and Parler is far from topping that list.

It may be growing, but its 10 million users are still no match to the 2.7 billion (yes, billion) Facebook users or even the 340 million Twitter users (which just as a reference is not even in the top 10 of global social media channels). If you have the time and personnel you can venture into other channels, from Parler to Twitch, but since most agencies are spread thin to begin with, you are better off directing your energy where it will benefit you the most.

2. What is your goal?

“Pro-police” forums may make us feel good, but they don’t serve the purpose of policing. Just like you wouldn’t only police safe neighborhoods, similarly, you can’t only speak to those who support you. You may get a lot of “likes,” but that isn’t your goal, is it? Your goal is to communicate with residents and share important information in order to build trust and keep them and your officers safe, and that sadly is not always a popularity contest. If you hold a meeting and only invite your supporters you may be avoiding conflict, but you probably won’t achieve much when it comes to transparency, relationship-building and collaboration.

Additionally, echo chambers can quickly become an unhealthy environment if we are only exposed to one side of the story. Substituting one politically tinted platform with another ensures we will still be having one-sided conversations, even if some are more friendly than others. You could argue that negative attitudes toward law enforcement, particularly on Twitter, make it a minefield for conversation, but that’s exactly why your presence there is so important. In areas where there is misinformation about policing is where your voice is needed the most.

3. There is no safe space

Finally, if you think Parler (or anywhere) is a “safe space,” think again. As one chief in Arkansas found out, what happens on the internet never stays on the internet, and you should treat every online interaction as if it could be on the front page of the paper tomorrow. This is also true if you choose to use a pseudonym rather than your real name. As a law enforcement official, you are only a few short clicks away from your identity being revealed, as we see time and time again.

An online public space

Sure, Twitter, Facebook are selective, divisive and loud – but they’re the closest thing to an online public space that we have. The frequent spouts of ugliness and uneven content moderation may make it tempting to switch over to a new home, but we should not be substituting one flawed stage with another. As the country becomes more partisan and divided, law enforcement must constantly strive to remain above the simplified notion of “us vs. them,” both on and offline.

NEXT: What police should & should not be doing on social media right NOW

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