Let’s Talk Numbers
By Yocheved “Ayden” Pahmer
Police Psychology — let’s talk numbers. There are many cops out there. In fact, according to studies done by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are over 1.1 million cops in the United States. That number doesn’t include part-time employees, volunteers, or support staff. Further, these numbers are from way back in 2008—the numbers have increased significantly since then. With numbers as great as this, it is not surprising that a few of these individuals take advantage of the resources available online. For example, the Facebook site for Law Enforcement Today has 411,132 people that liked it (as of September 25, 2015). PoliceOne on Facebook has 716,435 likes.
There are 151,604 people with a “Police Officer” title on LinkedIn, and 33, 318 listed as Police Chiefs. You do much better when you search for individuals with a “Law Enforcement” title on LinkedIn, but bear in mind that such a qualification includes a lot of different professions under its broad banner. In fact, according to a study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), only 23.1% of police departments in the United States use LinkedIn.
Many departments are considering implementing social media training for their officers. According to the IACP study, 71.7% of agencies have a social media policy already in place; an additional 12.2% are currently creating a policy or plan to create one. The benefits to encouraging police officers and police departments to use the Internet and social media website are countless. One specific benefit, however, is that it will open the door for many cops to take advantage of the vast online resources available to them. This same IACP study shows that many cops are concerned about their personal safety when it comes to creating accounts on various social media websites. The training their department can provide can help teach these cops how to navigate the dangers of social media and avoid any and all pitfalls.
How to Build Online Connections
So, the cops that do not currently have any online presence are really beyond our reach when it comes to connecting with other cops on the Internet. But how do you go about contacting and connecting with cops that are on the Internet? Well, perhaps the easiest method, and one that my boss has me implementing personally, is go onto LinkedIn, search for people with a “police officer” or “law enforcement” title, and then connect with them. You will not be able to connect with everyone, but systematically go through all the results and connect with whomever you can. Once they accept your connection, it’s always a good idea to send them a nice, personalized email to tell them who you are and thank them for connecting back. Then, once you connect with them, you can scroll through their connections, and connect with those connections in turn. In our office we have only begun this process really, but we connected to 1500 officers we weren’t connected with before in a very short time.
Another way to connect with people is by looking online for information about different conferences and police retreats. For example, the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology has a website that describes their annual conference. If you don’t have the time or resources to attend these conferences, you can still scroll through the conference programs, read the abstracts of the presenters, and find the researchers on Facebook or LinkedIn, and connect with them there. Make sure to include a personalized letter explaining that you read about their research and are interested in the same field of study. The National Law Enforcement Officers website describes some events you may want to look at.
The Problem With Age
There is one important consideration that cannot be ignored: age demographics. Bear in mind, the most popular social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest attract a much younger demographic. Pew Research Center suggests that as many as 41% of older individuals do not go online frequently, let alone use the Internet to communicate with other people (and don’t even get me started on their cell phone use, or lack thereof). Further, it was suggested that as many as 56% of them indicated that they would require assistance if they wanted to use any of these “new” websites, such as Facebook or Twitter. There is definitely an upward trend here (a few years ago, numbers were closer to 20% of these older people using the Internet), but when we’re talking about a field that is saturated more with older individuals than many other fields, sometimes you will get skewed data. This may account for why there are not as many police officers online as you would expect given how many there are in reality. It’s important for these individuals to understand, however, that sometimes change is good. Not just good—great, beneficial, even. It may be difficult to get started, but once you do, you’ll see how useful Internet resources and Internet connections really are.
Now there are tons of communities that are “Law Enforcement Only” which are basically Facebook bulletin boards that have tens of thousands involved in them. I can look them, but I am unable to actually join them to find out their numbers (they’re law enforcement only). It might be interesting to combine with a cop and go after some of those sites as well. The possibilities are endless in the social media market.
Overall, the Internet can provide a new frontier in which you can connect with other like-minded individuals who share your interests, profession, and even many of your experiences. Now all we need to do is go out there and connect with as many of these individuals as we can. Cops are already seen as a tight fraternity, a family, a brotherhood, a sisterhood. But, together, we can build up this community even more.
Yocheved “Ayden” Pahmer is a senior at Yeshiva University in psychology wanting to be a police psychologist. She is applying to graduate school. Last school year she started working as a paid intern with Dr. Gary Aumiller and now writes first drafts of this blog for him. This blog was not edited by Dr. Aumiller. She is presenting a poster at the Society conference.