Like many of us do, we reach out over social media within our circles of interests to “meet” the best & brightest.I am fortunate enough to have become friends with a Brother in Blue and one of England’s newest rising coppers.
When asked by Chief Scott Silverii to write an entry for his blog, I did wonder for a while what I could write about that would be informative, interesting and insightful.
After a little while longer, I realised I had little that would fit into these categories. So as Chief Silverii and I came into contact via social media, I thought this would be an apt topic to write about.
I am currently a new probationer or ‘probie’ in Surrey Police, England and have been in the police service for a year now. My life before policing was working for a variety of digital advertising agencies on, amongst other things, social media strategies for clients.
Digital and social media is a passion of mine and I am intrigued by the relatively untapped benefits it can have for modern day policing across the world.
In the private sector, the large marketing budgets of corporations has meant they have been able to hire expertise to advise, create and implement digital and social campaigns for them.
Most police services around the world do not have this luxury and in comparison have relatively small budgets for this area, which is why they and the majority of the public sector are playing catch up in using social media as a tool to communicate with the public.
Throughout history law enforcement has gone to where the people are. A couple of hundred years ago all the townsfolk from a given area would meet once a week at the town square.
The local police would attend, give speeches and ask for information on crimes. Today social media is where the people are, and this is where modern day policing needs to be.
A recent study in 2012 by Accenture examining the relationship between social media, police and citizenry across 6 countries including UK highlighted, amongst other things, that the vast majority of citizens want to support their police force.
But only a small amount feel well informed, which shows a communications gap exists that needs to be addressed.
So I am fortunate to have joined a progressive organisation like Surrey Police where our Chief Constable Lynne Owens is fully behind social media and she believes in the use it can provide to policing.
There are currently new and exciting things occurring at Surrey Police in the world of digital and social media and, with our specialist online and social media teams, the future looks promising.
We have a social media taskforce, last year led by Chief Superintendent Gavin Stephens, which meets monthly to discuss social strategy and actions tasks to individuals to move the force on.
This week saw a training session around social media and how it can be used effectively in major and critical incidents.
Next month we are running a training programme for individuals from each of the 11 ‘boroughs’ or areas who have volunteered to be a social media champion for their particular area. These are a mixture of Police Constables, Police Community Support Officers and Police staff.
The training will help give them more tools to continue the good work that has been taking place with building relations online with their communities, and will further enable them to create engaging and relevant content to use to communicate with the public they serve.
Part of their role will be to inspire and encourage other team members to become more involved with social media.
There are numerous examples of how police services around the world have shown how social media can be used as an effective communication tool with the public.
For instance the recent Gangnam style parody video by Falmouth Police in the UK, where the objective was raising money for treatment for Joshua Wilson, a 12 year old boy who has a reoccurring brain stem glioma tumour and neuromuscular disabilities.
The target was to raise £3,000 and after three weeks there was £12,000 raised and over 200,000 video views. In Vancouver, Canada there was a story where a new College student wrote a post on Reddit asking where to buy cannabis. A Vancouver Police Officer who monitors social media sites responded to the post with the word “Cough”.
The reaction on Reddit went viral – 2800 people contributed and conversation led onto wider conversations around Vancouver Police’s approach to social media and local cannabis laws.
New South Wales police in Australia have also won plaudit for their novel approach to engaging with rural communities on Facebook by establishing Project Eyewatch.
There are also huge opportunities for using social media to aid with the investigation side of policing. This is an area that we are currently exploring to ensure that as well as keeping people safe and being there when people need us, we are also using digital and social media channels to relentlessly pursue criminals and detect and arrest those that commit crime.
So it seems that police services around the world are moving in the right directions online. It is not about overnight or one-off success, but more about a consistent approach that focuses on putting the public at the heart of what we do.
Just the same as the offline world of policing really.
PC Jack Poynter
For those on Twitter you can reach me at http://www.twitter.com/PCJackPoynter
Surrey Police Twitter page – http://www.twitter.com/SurreyPolice
Surrey Police Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/SurreyPolice
Accenture study – http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Are-Police-Forces-Maximizing-Technology-to-Fight-Crime-and-Engage-Citizens.pdf#zoom=50 Gangnam Style parody – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhWrCGVMQf8
Project Eyewatch – http://www.facebook.com/?sk=welcome#!/ProjectEyewatch?fref=ts
Once you discover your passion, everything else makes sense. This week, lets discuss and discover our “why.”
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