GTPD Leads the Way in Law Enforcement Use of Social Media
Georgia Tech Police Chief Rob Connolly accepted the “Top Cop” award on behalf of the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) today for its innovative use of social media during the 2017 Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement (SMILE) Conference, April 3-5 in Long Beach, California.
“We are proud of the work our officers and student reporters have been doing in social media to build a strong connection with our community and discover concerns,” Connolly said. “This award recognizes that GTPD is a leader in using the latest technology to improve the safety of the campus.”
GTPD initiated its efforts on social media platforms in 2011 with Twitter and Facebook and added a presence on SnapChat, Instagram, reddit, and YouTube. On Valentine’s Day, GTPD’s Facebook video showing officers dancing the Cupid Shuffle garnered more than 1.3 million views. But more than views, clicks or likes, GTPD is recognized as a social media leader among law enforcement agencies for their commitment to the strategy.
“What’s different for us is that we are taking a comprehensive approach,” said GTPD Lt. Anthony Leonard, who supervises the officers and students who work on social media. “We have dedicated space, we have dedicated staff and we use students. The students are one of the biggest differences because we're utilizing members of the community to better connect with the whole community.”
GTPD employs five to seven students each semester to staff the social media center, and they have authority to post and get photo and video content for posting. They are supervised by Officer Joshua Strully, a 2010 Georgia Tech alum who is putting his degree in Science Technology and Culture to use every day in social media.
“My biggest draw to social media was reddit,” Strully said. “Before I was in this role, I kept an eye on the Georgia Tech subreddit, and now it’s a key part of our strategy to connect with the campus.”
The GTPD social media center has five objectives: personalization, education, information, monitoring and responding. Some of the most effective tactics have been the “Behind the Badge” series showing different officers holding up a white board with a surprising fact about themselves, the recognition of “See Something/Say Something” award recipients, Traffic Trivia Tuesdays, Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) sessions, and the Twitter ride-alongs.
“We use platforms that a lot of agencies don’t use,” Strully said. “We’re on Instagram, SnapChat and reddit, and each of them provide access to our key audiences in a different way.”
K-9 officer Koda’s Instagram page has more than 1,600 followers, and AMAs with Strully and Zach Bryan of the K-9 unit were popular on reddit. Officer Austin Soper has done several “takeovers” of the SnapChat account to talk about anti-theft measures and speeding enforcement.
Most importantly, the channels have helped students assist with investigations. After distributing a “Be on the lookout” alert through social media, GTPD received calls from students about a bicycle theft in progress. Officers and investiagors later were able to make arrests.
“I think this award shows that Chief Connolly is taking the slogan ‘Creating the Next’ to heart,” Leonard said. “He has ideas that are revolutionary for law enforcement. He deserves the credit for being an innovator and not being afraid take some risk. The social media center was his idea and his vision.”