Using Social Media to Increase Input from Residents

Our recent report Divided Communities and Social Media: Strategies for Community Leaders highlights how the phenomenal growth in social media is altering the way that community members perceive and interact with each other. In the face of pervasive use of social media, community leaders have to up their game to address community division.

The report focused on five social media strategies for community leaders to utilize to help communities turn division into positive change:

  1. Use social media, websites, and apps to create widely-used and trusted online information sources for residents that will help maintain and enhance residents’ confidence and become an antidote to inaccurate news and unsubstantiated rumors
  2. Use social media, websites, and apps to increase input from residents in ongoing decisions respond to residents’ concerns.
  3. Use social media, websites, and apps to promote offline, face-to-face events and to support online dialogue among residents in order to build community resiliency.
  4. Work to reduce and combat online hate speech/discriminatory conduct through social media so as to reduce the effects.
  5. Mine social media and other online data as part of an overall ongoing initiative to better understand community concerns.

Of the 5 strategies, #2 using social media, websites and apps to increase input from resident, is  a useful strategy to begin with in order to get immediate results.

Following a tumultuous weekend of protests in San Jose, the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) brought together a diverse group of 200 residents, civic leaders, and police officers to map out solutions in a Community Trust in Policing Forum. Participants included local residents, families who had lost loved ones to police shootings, community-based organizations, local law enforcement leaders, and city officials.

Utilizing both trained facilitators from the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (which is leading the Divided Community Project Pilot Program in San Mateo, California) and My90 – a civic technology that sources local data to improve communication, trust, and safety – immigrant community residents spoke on their experiences with law enforcement, family members of many victims of police shootings spoke about their frustrations and their need for improved processes, and residents who have had positive interactions with command staff spoke on their desire for improved relationships with officers who patrol their neighborhoods. The use of technology was critical, allowing attendees to send and receive over 1,500 text messages throughout the course of the event to share feedback, questions, and solutions.

The Forum tackled difficult issues on a tumultuous weekend of protests. Improving community trust in local police has always touched upon race, citizenship, mental health, and more. Now, as the tensions between local and national politics increased, so has the significance of these issues.

The Independent Police Auditor hosted the Community Trust in Policing Forum in partnership with Mayor Sam Liccardo, Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, with the support of the San Francisco 49ers. A wide range of stakeholders were invited, all of whom are needed to help San Jose become a national leader in community-police relations. Participants included local residents, families who had lost loved ones to police shootings, community-based organizations, local law enforcement leaders, and city officials. Speakers included Chief of Police Eddie Garcia, community leaders, and national experts on subjects of race, sociology, and policy.

Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center provided 12 facilitators for the second half of the summit where the entire participating group was divided into smaller sections for dialogue. In many of these groups, immigrant community residents spoke on their experiences with law enforcement, family members of many victims of police shootings expressed their frustration and their need for improved processes, and residents who have had some positive interactions with command staff spoke on their desire for improved relationships with officers who patrol the neighborhoods.

The approximately 200 participants shared their suggestions for improved relationships, increased presence and oversight of the IPA, and their hopes for working together towards a safer community.

Participant feedback was a critical part of the event, and is being used to help build the foundation of a community-driven strategy to measurably improve local community-police relations in terms of engagement, trust, and safety. My90 is civic technology company that sources local data to improve communication, trust and safety. Attendees sent and received 1,513 anonymous My90 text messages throughout the course of the event to share feedback, questions, and solutions. My90 offered participants a chance to answer targeted questions and discuss general viewpoints about the San Jose Police Department, the IPA, and the City of San Jose. Participants shared feedback about proposed policy changes, speakers’ remarks, participatory breakout sessions, and their own personal interactions with local police officers.

The combined efforts of technology-driven iterative feedback from 200 participants and inclusive facilitated in-person dialogue supported by skilled facilitators from the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center led to suggestions for improved relationships, increased presence and oversight of the independent auditor’s office, and hopes for working together towards a safer community.