The report analyzed the level of police presence in the social media platforms during the period from 1 January to 31 July 2017.
Social media are internet-based networking tools that allow individuals to access, engage and interact with others through the creation and sharing of content that is accessed through any internet-enabled device (which increasingly includes smartphones and mobile devices). In the era when newspapers, radio, and television were the only existing media, public institutions, including police, were forced to use mediators to send their messages to the public.
The study investigates the use of social media by the police services or ministries of interior in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia). The purpose of the study is to find out how law enforcement agencies in the region are using social media.
Police services in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) are not substantially active on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) and are not sufficiently exploiting the advantages of online communication such as: flexibility (accessible 24/7), relevance (provides a place for real-life policing examples and the exchange of experiences), and community building (the police can develop a supportive, stimulating community that is held by participants in high regard).
There is a significant possibility for police services to use social media in the WB for strong community engagement and partnership with the aim of providing a crime-free and safe environment for citizens. Internet penetration in the region is 68.1% and there are 12.5 million internet users as well as more than 8.5 million Facebook account holders. The average Facebook consumer has more than 200 ‘friends’, which indicates a high potential for the community engagement and sharing of information.
- Online communication of police services in the WB should be consistent with the mission, vision, and values of the police. Thus, a strategic framework for police online communication should be developed as complementary and supplementary content or pillar to overall communication strategy of the police service.
- Police services in the WB should use social media not only for sharing information or for promotion, but also for creating communities and engaging with citizens. In addition, social networks should be used for engaging citizens to help with investigations.
- Each local police service (at least in the capital, and in the largest cities with the substantial mobility of citizens) should have its own social media account that will follow general guidelines developed by the Ministry responsible for home affairs.
The study consists of two sections. The first section analyses the level of police presence in the social media, and the type of information that police services have provided online on social media platforms during the period from 1 January to 31 July 2017. Indicators for the social media presence analysis are: the number of followers, posting frequency, reach, and other statistical data.
The second section identifies best practices used by police services around the world or other countries relevant for the WB. Special attention was paid to the local level, i.e. the fact that some police services have a good policy of having social media accounts based on smaller geographical units (cities or municipalities).
The publication was produced within the framework of the following projects: “Supporting Improvement of Police Communication in the Western Balkans” supported by the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), and “Western Balkans Pulse for Police Integrity and Trust” supported by the European Union (EU) through the program “Civil Society Facility”. The views and opinions presented in this publication do not represent the views of the DCAF and EU.
Police and Social Media: To Protect and To Serve Using Likes and Shares
June 20, 2016 | Vuk Jeremić