What is Community Engagement in a Digital World & How Can You Improve It?

Learn how digital tools enhance public trust in law enforcement and discover community engagement ideas to help your agency better serve citizens.

April 7, 2023

Article highlights: 

Community engagement is an essential aspect of any law enforcement agency's efforts to build trust and better serve their communities. Many in-person community initiatives provide valuable opportunities for police officers to connect with citizens: town hall meetings, community forums, neighborhood watch programs, ride-alongs with officers, block parties, and events like "Coffee with a Cop." 

But in-person programs alone are no longer enough to understand and meet your community’s needs today. Relying solely on these events comes with notable pitfalls. They have restricted reach, lack real-time communication, and provide limited feedback. Additionally, tracking engagement can be difficult, and hosting or attending events can put strain on your internal resources. 

The rise of technology has created more opportunity – and greater expectations – for police community engagement, especially among Gen Z, who are digital natives. Citizen needs are quickly changing, which means law enforcement agencies need to be proactive in implementing digital community engagement ideas to meet expectations and provide more modern, real-time communication. 

In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is community engagement?” and dive into its importance. Then, we’ll explore what engaging citizens looks like in today’s digital age and get actionable ideas for community engagement with your department.

The rise of technology has created more opportunity – and greater expectations – for police community engagement.

What is community engagement and why is it important?

Community engagement is a crucial aspect of building and maintaining relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. But what is community engagement? 

Community engagement is the process that allows for two-way communication and collaboration between citizens and law enforcement. It gives community members the opportunity to voice their concerns, which allows public safety agencies to develop the right solutions to address those needs. Effective community engagement makes citizens feel heard and included in the decisions that impact their community.

Agencies that prioritize police community engagement can utilize various tactics to gather citizen feedback, including meetings, forums, surveys, social media, and other digital tools. By strengthening your relationships with the community, your department can foster public trust, improve transparency, and build accountability. Overall, community engagement is a critical component of effective service in public safety, helping create safer and more vibrant communities.



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What does community engagement look like today?

Digital technology has drastically changed the way people communicate and interact with each other. And expectations for community engagement with law enforcement have shifted, too.

Leveraging digital solutions can provide a wealth of community engagement ideas and help public safety agencies keep up with these changing needs.

Real-time communication

Real-time communication ensures citizens receive timely updates and stay informed about important events in their community. Digital technology enables people to communicate with public safety agencies as events occur, which is critical during emergencies. For example, people can use digital platforms or messaging apps to report incidents or request assistance from public safety agencies.

Access to information

Community members today want easy access to important information about their communities and the public safety agencies that serve them, including crime reports, emergency alerts, and safety tips. Digital solutions allow law enforcement agencies to disseminate this information more quickly and efficiently than traditional methods like posters or flyers.

Two-way communication

Community members want their concerns and opinions to be heard, and they want follow-up from their local departments. Digital community engagement can support two-way communication between public safety agencies and the public.

For example, agencies can use community engagement software to follow-up on citizens’ feedback or even provide them with critical information about what to do while they wait for responders to arrive on scene.

Collaborative communication 

Digital technology can facilitate collaborative communication between public safety agencies and other organizations, such as community groups, schools, or businesses. For instance, law enforcement departments can use social media to communicate about crime prevention initiatives or emergency preparedness plans. 

Digital community engagement ideas for law enforcement

Public safety agencies should leverage digital platforms to reach out to their communities more effectively. There are several digital community engagement ideas your agency can use to enhance your outreach efforts.

Social media

One of the most popular ways to engage with the community is through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media is a great way to reach a wider audience and engage with them in real-time. Agencies can provide information about upcoming events, share safety tips, and create public service announcements to inform their communities. 

Press releases

Press releases are another way to keep the public informed about public safety events and initiatives. By distributing press releases to local media outlets, your agency can ensure your message reaches a broader audience. This is especially important for breaking news, emergency situations, and other time-sensitive information.

Community engagement software

Community engagement software is another valuable tool for public safety agencies. These platforms allow police departments to collect feedback, conduct surveys, and engage in two-way communication with citizens. Community engagement software also helps agencies track engagement and measure the satisfaction of the citizens they serve.

Mobile apps

As the use of digital technology advances, mobile apps are also becoming increasingly popular for community engagement. These offer an additional channel for communication and engagement. Law enforcement agencies can leverage apps that provide safety tips, access to emergency services, and other relevant information.

Webinars and virtual town halls

Webinars and virtual town halls are other great ideas for community engagement that help your department engage with the community in real-time. These digital events allow agencies to share information, answer questions, and receive feedback from community members. They’re especially useful for engaging with large groups of people and can help agencies address common concerns and issues.

Text messaging alerts

Finally, text alerts are a simple yet effective way to keep the community informed about public safety events and emergencies. By signing up for text alerts, citizens can receive timely information and updates directly to their mobile devices. This can help keep the public informed and prepared for emergencies. 

Start building stronger relationships with your community

Digital community engagement provides law enforcement agencies with valuable tools to connect with citizens in a digital-centric world. By leveraging digital platforms, agencies can gain ideas for community engagement and support two-way communication to reach a broader audience and engage with citizens in real-time. 

This approach ensures community members feel heard and valued, and it empowers law enforcement agencies to address their needs more effectively. Ultimately, digital community engagement can help build trust, transparency, and accountability between your department and your community, creating stronger and more connected relationships.

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of community engagement software, discover how PowerDMS’s digital community engagement and feedback solution, PowerEngage, can help.

Discover PowerEngage


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