To be relevant, credible and accepted, many investigators need to engage with the public. Increasingly that means embracing social media like Twitter and Facebook as a two-way conversation with followers. Failure to interact via social media can leave an investigator looking arrogant and out of touch. Two examples:
1. Roanoke, Virginia, police evacuate and search a shopping mall after report of a man with a gun. They do not find the man. They publish surveillance camera images of him on Facebook. Local TV news links to police department’s Facebook page. Facebook viewers debate whether suspect is carrying a gun or an umbrella. The man in question hears about the investigation and comes to police to show that he was carrying an umbrella. Tim Jones and Aisha Johnson, "Engaging the Public and Protecting Agencies and Personnel on Facebook and Beyond," The Police Chief 78 (July 2011): 58–61.
2. UK has experienced riots and social unrest, in part fomented by social media and anti-Muslim sentiments. West Midlands police saw that troublemakers, trying to attract a crowd to a rally in Dudley, tweeted, falsely: “Muslims with knives rioting in Dudley #EDL.” Many people retweeted. The police were monitoring this Twitter stream. Then the police tweeted, “There are no Muslims rioting in Dudley – all quiet #EDL” The public retweeted the police. This pattern of misinformation by the troublemakers, and refutation by the police continued. This police interaction helped to discredit the troublemakers and to dampen unrest in Dudley. “Social Media Handbook for Police: Part 12” (“EDL” refers to right-wing English Defence League.)