The New Walking Beat: A Model Assessment Tool for Using Social Media to Enhance Community Policing
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Purpose: In recent years, social media has become a primary method and forum of interaction within communities. The theory and common practice of community policing requires law enforcement agencies to be engaged with all segments of the community in their efforts to preserve the peace and maintain public safety. The purpose of this applied research project is threefold. First, it describes the ideal components of an effective social media campaign in the context of community policing. Second, it assesses the Austin Police Department's (APD) social media outreach using these ideal type components. Third, based on the assessment, it provides recommendations for improving the APD's social media outreach so that the department's emphasis on community policing is maximized. A review of the literature identified three key components of an effective social media campaign in the context of community policing. These components include building community partnerships through social media, integrating social media with problem solving and integrating social media policies and procedures. Methodology: The literature identified the components of an effective social media campaign in the context of community policing. These components are used to construct a model assessment tool. This tool is used to assess the Austin Police Department's social media campaign in the context of community policing in conjunction with document analysis and semi-structured interviews to form a case study. Findings: The Austin Police Department's social media outreach adequately uses social media to enhance its community policing mission. The implementation of more formalized policies and procedures and adequately equipping the department with more trained personnel, dedicated finances and current technology to maintain an up to date and 24/7 social media presence is necessary as the department continues to grow.