Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said his department's use of social media is like “having a police officer on every street corner.”
The chief spoke Tuesday to about 120 law enforcement officials from around the world who attended the Social Media, Internet and Law Enforcement (SMILE) conference at Embassy Suites in downtown Omaha.
It was the first time Omaha police have hosted the event, which aims to educate police officers about Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites as tools for community outreach, crime prevention, forensics, recruitment, public relations and more.
People can get public safety information faster than ever through social media, and law enforcement agencies are part of a growing group participating, conference organizers said.
The goal is to spread the word about how to prevent crime and make police more approachable to the public.
“If you're not on social media, you're left behind,” said Sgt. Christopher Cook of the Arlington, Texas, Police Department. Cook was the first speaker of the conference, which runs through Thursday.
Omaha has been using social media for several years — a team of four, including Lt. Darci Tierney, runs the sites and posts news, photos and other tidbits.
More than 16,500 people follow the Omaha Police Department Facebook page. Individual officers also are on Twitter.
Cook suggested officers post news about major crimes, such as the fatal shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, and lighter content like “National Donut Day.”
People traveled to the SMILE conference from as far away as Finland, Canada, Belgium and Iceland. Police from at least 20 U.S. states were represented.