From #Ferguson to #OfficerFriendly

at Bloomberg View: “In the tiny town of Jun, Spain, (population: 3,000) meeting rooms in city hall have their own Twitter accounts. When residents want to reserve them, they send a direct message via Twitter; when it’s time, the door to the room unlocks automatically in response to a tweet. Jun’s mayor, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, says he coordinates with other public servants via Twitter. Residents routinely tweet about public services, and city hall answers. Every police officer in Jun has a Twitter handle displayed on his uniform.
Now the New York Police Department, the largest in the U.S., is starting a broad social media initiative to get every precinct talking and listening online via Twitter, to both serve citizens and manage police personnel. The question is whether the kind of positive, highly local responsiveness the residents of Jun expect is possible across all parts of local government — not just from the police — in a big city. If it works, the benefits to the public from this kind of engagement could be enormous.
In the age of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner‘s in New York, when police abuses can be easily documented by citizens wielding smartphones, relationships between police departments and the communities they serve can quickly become strained. And social media use by the police runs the risk of being initially dismissed as a publicity stunt. But after decades of losing the trust of important New York City communities, this step may help the department gain civic support.
There will be bumps along the way. Last spring, the NYPD kicked off a social media campaign, asking people to share photos accompanied by the Twitter hashtag #myNYPD. Within 24 hours the hashtag was famous worldwide, as activists posted pictures of clashes between residents and the police. But Commissioner Bill Bratton brushed off the criticism, calling the pictures old news and saying the media event was not going to cause the NYPD to change its plans to be active on social media. “I welcome the attention,” he said.
Bratton will roll out a long list of social media efforts this week. The NYPD is training its dozens of commanding officers to understand and use Twitter on their own, both to ask questions and to respond timely to comments and concerns. For example, police in New York City spend a lot of time looking for missing people; now they will be able to get assistance from eyes on the street…”