Periscope: Live Social-Media Streaming

A new app from Twitter holds promise for police-community relations

By Josh Coleman  |   May 5, 2015

Law enforcement has embraced several social media platforms in recent years as administrators have quickly discovered how beneficial they are. Social media has increased opportunities to communicate directly with the community and allowed the agency to release messages that cannot be construed by outside sources. Recently, Twitter unveiled a new—barely a month old—live-streaming video application called Periscope. Periscope has quickly become a conversation piece among those in the law enforcement social-media business.

If youve not heard of Periscope, heres a quick rundown on what the application offers. Periscope is a video live-streaming application (app), which allows users to instantly broadcast to followers or whomever is interested in watching live broadcasts. The app has become very popular with celebrities, politicians and the media. Local newscasters, in particular, use it to broadcasting a “behind-the-scenes” look at their local news.

Upon my discovery of Periscope, I immediately became intrigued with the technology and started conducting research. I logged in and was able to enjoy my first “broadcast.”

Keeping It Positive!
So, you may be asking, “What are the pros of adopting a live-streaming app for your law enforcement agency?”

After careful consideration and personal research for my agency, I determined that Periscope could be used as a great showcase tool. For instance, it could be used as a “behind the scenes” tour similar to virtual ride-a-long, currently being used among several agencies on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, could be used to include live broadcasts from community events like Coffee with a Cop, National Night Out or other fundraising events that you want to advertise.

It is also a great way to give sneak peeks to the community of ceremonies such as a Citizen Police Academy, Youth Police Academy or even new officer induction ceremony. These are just a few ideas to engage the community in a way in which the viewers can be a part of these events who might have never been able to participate otherwise.

Avoid Unnecessary Embarrassment
If your agency is involved in social media, Im sure you already know that there is always a chance of those embarrassing social “uh-ohs” or missed opportunities. So its important to do your best to always be cautiously aware of your surroundings during live broadcasts.

For example, while conducting research I witnessed a news anchor standing-by during a commercial break and you could hear co-workers sharing their individual opinions about social media followers—and it wasn’t about how wonderful they were! Remember: This is LIVE!image1

Personally, I would suggest that any agency considering a live, virtual ride-a-long be cautious due to privacy concerns and tactics. Again, keep in mind what youre actually broadcasting and what can be revealed by simply showing a traffic stop, service call or crime in progress.

Some of you might be thinking that this just isn’t worth the potential pitfalls. Maybe you think your Facebook page is enough. Obviously you have to come to your own conclusions about what’s best for your agency and the community it serves. But I would offer that we, as a profession, must be where our community is. And increasingly the community is on new (maybe inherently risky) social media platforms. If we’re not there telling our story, it will be told for us.

In my experience as a patrol officer and corporal in Community Affairs, I have found it best to always approach any new social media program by conducting adequate research, asking questions of agencies that already use the particular program, and determining how it can best be utilized to enhance our agency. Other questions to keep in mind:

  • Does it promote continuity within the department?
  • Does it assist in raising morale within the agency or improve the agency’s relationship within community?
  • Does it provide a safe and effective platform to engage the community?”

Law Enforcement has to be progressive in giving their audiences opportunities to approach and ask those important questions. Its also important that the community view your officers within the agency as people so they can better understand why they do what they do.