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Stanley Cup Riot: The VPD One Year Later

"Facebook ’Em, Danno!" How our cops have turned to social media since the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots
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"Facebook ’Em, Danno!" How our cops have turned to social media since the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots

On a recent rainy afternoon at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, 150 cops from as far away as Australia are getting chewed out by one of their own. "A riot can go from zero to 150 with one Tweet," says Toronto training constable Nathan Dayler. A veteran of both the G-20 riots and Occupy demonstrations, Dayler has had more experience than most policing the Twittersphere. "You can't let tension just simmer on social media," he says. "That's not an option."

Tweets, hash tags, and netiquette are the subjects of the day at the fifth installment of Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement (SMILE). A kind of boot camp for police departments training up on social media, the conference broaches issues as diverse as mining Facebook for open-source intelligence to getting the most out of your 140 characters on Twitter.

"There's such a big gap between where law enforcement is and what they can achieve with these tools," says Lauri Stevens, who started SMILE in 2010 and has 14,895 followers on Twitter (@lawscomm). The rare expert equally at home discussing perps and pingbacks, Stevens, 50, began her career in the 1980s as a journalist in Boston, walking the beat with police, paramedics and fire officials. She later chaired an interactive media department at a local college, becoming an early social-media convert.

Cops, she realized, need Facebook and Twitter at least as much as text-obsessed millennials. "I saw a real need for first responders of all kinds to do a better job getting the word out," she says. The SMILE conference-as well as a blog called ConnectedCOPS and a booming media consulting practice-grew out of her efforts to get departments up to speed online. "They're very good at telling people what to do, but they're not always good at listening," she says. "Too few of them understand the benefit of true online engagement." A tool like Twitter, she says, enables police to gather evidence and gauge public sentiment while pushing out targeted messaging of their own. But few departments take full advantage.

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