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Police Use Social Network Tool for Public Updates

As we have discussed, police use social network sites to plan covert operations and catch criminals, but now they are also using Facebook and Twitter to communicate valuable information and public updates.

The Sacramento Police Department is at the forefront of law enforcement agencies around the country posting real-time updates about traffic accidents and officer-involved shootings, the Associated Press reports.

The social networking sites have become tools for police to promote their public safety goals and a modern way to build community/policing relationships. The public updates on Facebook and Twitter are used to communicate directly with the media and the community.

In the beginning however, police departments mainly used social network sites as an investigative tool to crack down on criminal activities, as previously discussed.

An example of this was seen with a New York teenager's Facebook Status alibi that saved him from facing criminal charges. Rodney Bradford's status update from a computer at his father's apartment in Harlem proved he couldn't have been a robbery suspect.

In another case, police found NY fugitive Christopher Crego by his using Facebook and MySpace info, as previously discussed.

FBI agents also have created online profiles that allow them to go undercover to exchange information with suspects and gather information from popular social networking sites

Now, in addition to an investigative tool, law enforcement is using Facebook and Twitter to enhance their communication and public updates.

The Police Services Department in Laguna Hills, Ca., currently uses its Facebook page to post information on neighborhood watch activities.

Also, the Sacramento Police Department links its Facebook and Twitter pages to its website home page and its blog, "Ask Officer Michelle," which offers interaction with a real cop.