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Social media and the police: A study of organizational characteristics associated with the use of social media

Xiaochen Hu (Department of Criminal Justice, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA)
Nicholas P. Lovrich (School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 21 February 2019

Issue publication date: 22 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Most police agencies in the USA make the claim that they use social media, and such use is drawing a great academic attention. Most studies on police use of social media focus on the content of police social media websites. Little research, however, has been conducted regarding what types of police agencies are in fact making use of social media. The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap in the knowledge.

Design/methodology/approach

The study reported here analyzes the 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) data set to identify the principal organizational characteristics of police agencies associated with the use of social media. Binary logistic regression is used to identify significant independent predictors of police use of social media, viewed here as a form of innovation.

Findings

The findings indicate that the workforce size (commissioned and civilian personnel) of a police agency, the level of participation in multi-jurisdictional task forces and the early use of an official agency website to communicate with the public are the predictors of police use of social media.

Research limitations/implications

Three theories pertaining to organizational behavior (i.e. contingency theory, institutional theory, and resource dependency theory), as well as Maguire’s (2003) study, are used to establish the theoretical framework for the research reported here.

Originality/value

Viewed as a pioneering study testing organizational theories related to police use of social media, the current study sets forth findings that help deepen the collective understanding of contingency theory, institutional theory and resource dependency theory as frameworks for explaining organizational behavior in policing.

Keywords

Citation

Hu, X. and Lovrich, N.P. (2019), "Social media and the police: A study of organizational characteristics associated with the use of social media", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 654-670. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-09-2018-0139

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited