Such platforms let police elicit realtime crime tips and create a dialogue not possible with traditional media.
“It gives the public a chance to have a two-way conversation with us,” said Myers.
The OCSO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have become the most popular of their kind across the nation. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media, the local sheriff’s office ranks first in most Twitter followers and Facebook likes for a county law enforcement agency of its size, 250 to 499 sworn officers.
At police conferences nationwide, social media is being touted as a new way of doing police work.
“If you’re a law enforcement agency and you’re not using it, you’re way behind the curve,” said Myers, a former television news reporter who is the OCSO’s first unsworn public information director.
In March, the OCSO participated in an international police Tweet-a-thon using the hash tag #poltwt. Myers featured a 33-year-old cold case concerning the “Lime Lady,” an unidentified woman who was found murdered on the east bank of the North Canadian River near Jones.
Within a day, Myers said he received a torrent of information, including names of possible matches. Although the leads didn’t pan out, the event helped spotlight an otherwise-forgotten case.
Social media also can help law enforcement evade common issues that arise when dealing with traditional media, said Sgt. Gary Knight, Oklahoma City Police Department spokesman.
In the past, police distributed news releases and did interviews with reporters, only to see their message heavily edited or buried in the back page.
“[Social media] gives us the ability to put out an unfiltered message,” Knight said. “It gives us a more direct route to the public.”
OKC police also use an email system called Citizen Alert (okc.gov/citizenalert) to disseminate public safety information, while Crime Stoppers (235-7300) allows the public to give phone tips anonymously.