Times have changed, and so has policing. You’d have to watch a pretty old movie these days to see a “flatfoot” twirling his baton while “pounding a beat.”
The modern police officer is usually in a car, and that car is usually equipped with a computer that the officer can use to access a number of databases, to do paperwork, to upload digital photos of a crime scene, to check on a stolen car or to download a suspect's criminal record and photograph.
Computers for police cars are not cheap, mainly because they’re built for rugged use.
Meanwhile, back at headquarters, social media — mainly Facebook and Twitter — are playing a growing role in police work: to help solve crimes, to inform the public about upcoming events or potential safety concerns, and for community outreach.
This makes perfect sense in a society that is more and more networked through email and social media that can be accessed on any smartphone.
The Southington Police Department posts the arrest blotter on its Facebook page along with road closings and other information.
“It’s the thing right now, and it’s going to be a growing wave in the future,” said Lt. Stephen Elliott.
Earlier this summer, a bicycle was reported stolen from the train station in Berlin. The Police Department posted security images on its Facebook page and within an hour received a call, interviewed the suspect and recovered the bike.
“It’s been a great tool for us,” said Berlin Deputy Police Chief Christopher Ciuci.
In Meriden, Public Information Officer Sgt. Christopher Fry uses both Facebook and Twitter.
“The Facebook portal is reserved for interaction with the community,” Fry said.
“I think you have to nowadays,” Ciuci said about using social media. “If you don’t, you’re not communicating as effectively as you could be.”
A 2013 social media survey from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, cited by Entrepreneur magazine, found that 96 percent of police departments use social media in some capacity, more than 80 percent say it has helped them solve crimes, and 73 percent of agencies said it helped improve police-community relationships.
Clearly, police use of social media is more than a fad; it’s the future.