Border Patrol, Social Media and Transnational Messaging

Kathleen Christie


Social media has penetrated every aspect of society and provided people with instant gratification and communication avenues. Social media is also a low-cost, high-capacity vehicle for law enforcement to communicate with the public. However, law enforcement agencies are only beginning to use this tool for community engagement. Police departments have leveraged Facebook to share photographs of officers assisting the public or officers participating in events within the community.

Since 1924, U.S. Border Patrol agents have worked diligently within its communities to educate the public on the Border Patrol mission. In 2003, the Border Patrol became a component of the recently formed Customs and Border Protection (CBP). At this time, all public affairs duties were moved to the CBP Public Affairs Office. The CBP Public Affairs Office controls all messaging to the public. CBP also leverages social media; Border Patrol may use social media as well, but only under the CBP umbrella. In other words, Border Patrol does not have specific social media accounts with the Border Patrol logo or that are used by agents in the field. CBP lacks a specific policy for social media use and relies on users to adhere to a common-sense approach to using social media platforms. Border Patrol should be able to leverage social media to engage with citizens in Canada and Mexico in support of the transnational mission to disrupt and degrade the transnational criminal organizations.

This thesis examines social media use in Canada and Mexico to determine if there is an adequate audience for Border Patrol engagement via social media. Social media policies of the U.S. Army, State Department, Department of the Interior, New York Police Department, Seattle Police Department, and Honolulu Police Department are analyzed to determine their best practices and policy gaps. The paper then examines police department use of social media to evaluate methods for adoption by the Border Patrol. Police departments utilize social media in various ways, such as for community engagement, conflict resolution, crime solving, and disaster management.

Border Patrol should be able to leverage its own social media accounts for community engagement and not rely solely on CBP social media accounts. Border Patrol will need to develop a social media policy to protect users and the integrity of the organization. Agents using social media will need to be trained on the common dos and don’ts for social media use and how to reach the target audience. CBP must amend its media policies to add social media use in order to protect users and the agency.



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