Police learn how to better use social media


A Sunnyvale conference hall may well have been the safest place in Silicon Valley on Tuesday. It was packed with cops attending a very different sort of police academy; they were attending the Social Media, and Internet, In Law Enforcement conference, or "SMILE" as in "Smile, you're on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

"You have to take part in it; people are talking about you, people are using social media to commit crimes, it's just, it's absolutely ignorant if you're a law enforcement agency these days to not use social media," SMILE conference founder Lauri Stevens said.

Stevens founded the conference three years ago. Now it's grown to international proportions.

Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman came all the way from England where the cutting edge is way beyond just posting mug shots.

"A lot of the work now is around the video platforms, the use of Google+, we've done operations live from the streets," Blakeman said.

It helps police improve their image, but it can also help solve crimes.

"We just monitor for activity in the neighborhoods, we monitor for activity on social media, as far as criminal investigation wise," Redwood City Police Ofc. Chris Rasmussen said.

Some of that monitoring could soon be automatic. The anonymous texting service TipNow is launching a new program that watches social networks for keywords.

"People are putting things on social media, even things like, 'I'm going to bring a gun to school tomorrow,'" Resiligence President Cyril Rayan said. "And I think these kind of technologies will be, need to be used to prevent major things from happening."

There have already been major victories.

"In Redwood City, we found a missing person in 13 minutes by a Twitter hit and a photo that we put out to the public," Redwood City Police Lt. Rhonda Leipelt said. "It changes our tactics, it changes our policing and it's changeing how the public perceives us as well.

Though this is the first SMILE conference in the Bay Area, it's held about three times a year. The next one will be in September, in Omaha, Nebraska.

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