Two recent surveys of law enforcement agencies found that police are increasingly reaching out to the public directly through social media.
A 2011 survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 88 percent of agencies use social media, mostly to help with finding witnesses and information in investigations. A July report by LexisNexis Risk Solutions found smaller agencies are more likely to use social media than large ones.
Where does L.A. fit in?
If you poke around Facebook and Twitter, you'll find plenty of L.A. police are online.
Those in Highland Park, Silver Lake, Glassel Park and Mount Washington and surroundings might already be familiar with the Facebook page of LAPD's Northeast Division. It's an active one that the division uses to keep neighbors notified on the latest incidents and alerts in the area.
Central Division, covering Downtown L.A., has a great Facebook page, too, with probably the best use of photos and high creativity marks.
Moving to other agencies, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is more into Twitter, with a bunch of deputies tweeting. There's Captain Mike Parker, Public Information Officer Nicole Nishida and Captain John Benedict, among others (just search for "LASD" and a whole bunch pop up).
You'll also find the California Department of Corrections active on Twitter.
Notably absent from social media are the notoriously paper-heavy courts. In fact, both Twitter and Facebook are banned in L.A. County courthouses.
Web savvy amongst the ranks naturally brings up questions of what is and is not appropriate to share. An L.A. homicide detective faced scrutiny after sharing a photo of a murder scene last year. Sheriff's Spokesman Steve Whitmore's personal account was also recently ridiculed by the L.A. Weekly.