Live Streaming for Public Safety

(This is an edited blog post from Motorola Solutions Fresh Communities by Andreea Cojocariu, digital marketing manager at DigitalStakeout.)

Why is live streaming video important for law enforcement?
The world of instant news and sharing is certainly not new for us, as we’re used to sharing text, pictures and videos online via social media. Live streaming video takes this world a step further. Now anyone can be a reporter and stream their perspective to anyone in the world…anyone…in real time. That sounds exciting and interesting from a user perspective perhaps, but from the eyes of law enforcement, it can be both an asset and a liability.

The benefits of live streaming video
Technology and social media providers tapping into fire hose data from Twitter can pull videos from live video streaming apps as part of their efforts in social media threat detection and investigative work. Live streaming video can be used in proactive policing efforts to spot potential risks and assess scenarios that enable law enforcement to make decisions faster and more appropriately. Officers can see a situation unfold and be alerted that it is a risk in real-time. Think public unrest, riots, school shootings, publicized cases, and special events – there is tremendous value an analyst could gleam from video data. There are cues and clues in videos not detectable in text that could provide valuable intel for law enforcement. This all requires good police work, and officers still need to be able to decipher that data and make decisions that impact public and officer safety. The ability to use live streaming video social media data is exciting and opens new doors for law enforcement.

The dangers
There are also major drawbacks to live streaming video. A dangerous situation for law enforcement is when a suspect or person of interest in the middle of committing a crime watches the live stream of officials in actions. Because anyone with a smartphone can be streaming live, law enforcement officers on the scene may not be aware if they are being live streamed. That puts officer lives and tactical strategies at risk. Said person of interest and committer of the crime can change their behavior and harm officers and the public based on what they’re seeing live. In the worst case scenario, the bad guys can get the upper hand.

How should I live stream?
Be mindful of the situation before live streaming: Ask yourself: is what I am seeing the beginning of a crime scene? Reporters and bystanders may, but an officer doing it can dangerous and impede an investigation. That’s not something you want.

Don’t reveal tactical information: This has already happened. A department was Periscoping live drills revealing how officers respond in scenarios. Guess what? Because that’s live and available for anyone in the world to see, you’re giving away information for free to criminals who can see that video and figure out ways to bypass law enforcement. Do not reveal tactical information. It puts officers and the public at risk.

Stick to the news: Periscope and Meerkat can be powerful tools to capture the facts. It is to everyone’s benefit to video only what is happening on the ground, without adding personal commentary.

It’s okay to be human. In marketing, there is the notion of humanizing your brand. That really applies to public relation efforts in general and definitely applies to law enforcement. Live videos, because they seem so unscripted, can be used to show the human side of your department. Be sincere. Be factual. Relate to your public. It will help promote good will in a time when relationships with public and law enforcement are tense.

Be mindful of location: Periscope can track location. Although it does not give exact coordinate data, it still reveals the centre of the area, which can lead to you. Considering the circumstances, you may or may not want that information available. That could impede investigations and put officers at risk … again, depending on the situation.

Live streaming is a powerful tool that can used to keep officers and citizens more informed, and ultimately, safer.

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