Understanding Online Audiences for Police on Social Media

Emma S. Spiro (PI)

A number of high-profile incidents have highlighted tensions between citizens and police, bringing issues of police-citizen trust and community policing to the forefront of the public’s attention. Efforts to mediate this tension emphasize the importance of promoting interaction and developing social relationships between citizens and police. This strategy – a critical component of community policing – may be employed in a variety of settings, including social media. While the use of social media as a community policing tool has gained attention from precincts and law enforcement oversight bodies, the ways in which police are expected to use social media to meet these goals remains an open question. This study seeks to explore how police are currently using social media as a community policing tool. It focuses on Twitter – a functionally flexible social media space – and considers whether and how law enforcement agencies are co-negotiating norms of engagement within this space, as well as how the public responds to the behavior of police accounts.