Traffic

BlueLine's "Traffic" functions like LinkedIn and Facebook's news feed.

Groups

Members can join groups based on their interests and expertise.

Video Conferencing

Officers can video conference with more than 12 other members.

Inside BlueLine, The Social Network For Police

A thin BlueLine separates this law enforcement social network from the rest.

There's a new social networking platform on the scene, and it's aimed specifically at law enforcement officials. Bill Bratton, former New York City and Boston police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief, gave Fast Company a tour of BlueLine, which he founded with Dave Riker and Jack Weiss, who worked with him at Kroll Security Group.

“I saw the need for it," Bratton says. "I’ve been in law enforcement or associated with it for 43 years, and the continuing struggle in law enforcement is always to find better ways to communicate with each other.” Bratton is an advocate of collaboration as well as data and technology in law enforcement.

BlueLine looks and functions like LinkedIn, but its features are tailored for law enforcement, and its servers are encrypted. Members must be active law enforcement officials, verified through multiple levels of security. Once verified, members can join groups based on interest or expertise and connect with other members around the country through group discussions, video conferencing, and instant messaging. The site is intended for sharing effective policing techniques and expertise, not information pertaining to specific crimes. “It may facilitate investigations by allowing officers to connect with each other in a new way. . . . They may be able to find each other to see if there’s additional information on a case they might be working . . . with the understanding that [sharing the information] would be done off the site through traditional communications channels,” Bratton said.

The system relies on self-policing: If a member is posting information about a case or an officer's personal life, other members can flag it for removal. BlueLine says it is confident this will be enough to deter inappropriate posts. Bratton added, “There aren’t a lot of police officers on [Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites]. Police officers tend to be very guarded about their privacy and their personal lives. . . . We make it quite clear this isn’t Facebook. This is not for showing pictures of the kids or your vacation.” But recent headlines indicate not all officers are as cautious as they should be, and those who do over-share risk serious consequences.

Unlike many other social startups, BlueLine already has a plan to generate revenue by offering companies advertising opportunities. For example, Ford could promote its latest law enforcement vehicle prototype on BlueLine, and members could comment on the product and features. While membership is currently free, BlueLine is considering offering premium paid memberships in the future as another way to become profitable.

For now, Bratton says he wants to get people using the site, and he wants to attract vendors. "Growth is the first object. . . . That would assist us in seeking the next round of investment.” Within 48 hours of launch, more than a thousand police chiefs from all 50 states signed on. If this success continues, BlueLine will open up to other groups, such as retired law enforcement, consultants, and universities.

[Image: Flickr user drpavloff]

Add New Comment

4 Comments

  • DIX_LEO

    The article does not indicate the site is FIPS or CJIS compliant. So I would assume that the sharing of any specific criminal information is a direct violation of law...so be very careful.

  • ben_marko

    There is a site for the military called TogetherWeServed, it is basically similar in concept to this site, but not meant for official discussions. The real vulnerability for these sites is security. With potentially hundreds, or thousands of law-enforcement professionals listing on this site. You could have state of the art security on any site, and all someone needs to foo is engage in a little social engineering to get a username and a password.

    It seems like this is a site that should be limited in access to police stations and the like. That database access they advertise...what kind of databases are they? So if someone gets into the site, they can gain all sorts of information on people. Better to severely limit access to this type of site to areas where such access can be protected against social engineering. No one can jet walk into a police station and just start using a computer (with all it's access, whatever information it can provide).

    When I did use TogetherWeServed, I went to a survival course in Maine. The instructor showed me how he was able to pull all sorts of information on me just be logging into that site.

  • NYC

    I think this is an interesting idea. A few thoughts... Nothing is secure and a police social network is a huge target. If they are talking about anything to do with their job or a case the whole thing will become discoverable for court. Interesting concept I just see potential issues down the road....

  • Bob

    I wonder how they'll screw this up. Good intentions aside there are more than a few loose bulbs in police uniforms. Curious to se what else we hear about this. If anything. Great story.