A report into social media activity by police forces based in a number of European states has concluded that, where engagement by police in social media is strongest, there also tends to be a more positive relationship between the police and the communities they serve.

The report – one of a group of academic studies published under the umbrella acronym ‘Composite’ (Comparative Police Studies in The EU) – involved the questioning of senior IT executives working within police forces based in 13 countries across Europe – including Germany, the UK and Spain.

The report identifies several key advantages of engaging with the public via social media – over and above the obvious benefit of using social media to appeal for information on specific crimes.

A crucial benefit of having an established and familiar social media presence is, the report says, a greater reassurance among the public during periods of crisis.

The report also argues that social media is particularly effective at reaching younger members of the community who, it claims, tend to rely on social media for information over and above traditional sources such as newspapers.

A further benefit is what the report identifies as social media’s more informal, friendlier tone – bringing out what it claims is a more personable and less aloof approach to police and community relations.

The report goes further in claiming that where police forces do lack a strong presence on social media sites, this communications vacuum will often filled by the emergence on social media sites of spontaneous and independent public commentary pages regarding police activity.