From Handshakes to Hashtags: Using Every Communication Tool in the Law Enforcement Toolbox

When I joined the Charlotte Police Department in Charlotte, North Carolina, 37 years ago, the department issued each officer a two-way radio to talk to a single officer or dispatcher. In July 2016, Fayetteville Police Department’s “Running Man Challenge” video on community interactions and relationships had more than 1.7 million views in less than 24 hours. With the push of a button, my department can share a press release on social media, potentially reaching the 206,000 residents of our city, or tweet an update of our community activities to our thousands of followers across the globe.

—Harold Medlock, Police Chief, Fayetteville Police Department

Communication is an integral part of law enforcement work. From handshakes on foot patrols to electronic profiles portraying media messages on how officers protect and serve, each communication technique assists in building community trust and developing relationships—two critical elements for policing today. Communication tools available to law enforcement have drastically expanded, and challenged, agencies’ ability to reach the citizens they serve. Therefore, police chiefs and other law enforcement leaders need to educate themselves on how to use traditional and current tools effectively to engage with their communities.