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June 7, 2011
Are Your Police Tweeting Yet?
Keeping up with what's happening in your community or marketing area? Be sure to watch whether your police department has a presence on Twitter or Facebook. Increasingly, that's the case, advises the Poynter Institute. While journalists may still be checking the log at police headquarters, now anybody on a given social media stream can follow announcements from a growing number of police departments.

"It's much more democratic in a way," says Gitte Laasby, a crime reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Everybody gets to have their say. I'm sure it must be empowering for them (the Milwaukee police). It's not quite so empowering for us."

Some reporters think the online approach beats caling police headquarters to ask, "Anything going on?" Others think tweeted police announcements can be unduly limiting. "What we tweeted is all we have," Justen Fenton, a Baltimore Sun crime reporter often hears when he calls the cops for more information.

The new notification channels will have to sort themselves out in stylistic/content terms.  Some police departments use them to congratulate fellow officers on good police work; others may twit the media in tweets. There's utility in the new online channels, but they can also become boring. Communication, after all, remains a discipline, by whatever mode.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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