Making progress….

In November 2009 I posted about Police using Social media, or rather not using social media.  At the time I wrote it you were more likely to see Gordon Brown performing a stand up comedy routine than you were to see a police officer on twitter.

Since that time, we have made some good progress. There are many more forces now engaged and actively participating, and lights seem to be coming on all over the place. I am regularly e-mailed by officers asking for advice on Social Media use, and encourage as many as I can to come on board. Since taking up my new job at Wolverhampton I am encouraging my officers to get involved and take the social media plunge.

I wrote the post to encourage officers to use social media to talk to and engage with the public in a different way.  We will of course always make most of our contact face to face, but we cannot afford to ignore the booming social media landscape. Engaging with the public remains an excellent reason to use social media, but it is clear now that we need to be engaging for other reasons.

At protests recently, social media has been used to orchestrate and co-ordinate activity to good effect. Police have been caught on the back foot and are a long way behind the protesters. It is my view that until more police officers and senior leaders start to use the medium, we will not even begin to close the gap. You can’t expect to just turn up on the day and start successfully tweeting. Firstly nobody will be following you,  so you will be merrily tweeting to yourself.  Second, although it is not a difficult to use the sites, it is good to practice before you start.

Before I tweeted from the EDL protest last year, I set about speaking to people in Dudley in the weeks leading up to the event. When I tweeted on the day, I had a ready made group of local people who forwarded on my tweets, and who were able to help me reach more people.

I still encounter some limited abuse and negativity on Twitter, but the vast majority are really welcoming. On a number of occasions, people have spoken to me about real crimes I have been able to help them with, people regularly ask me for advice, which I happily give.  I have been able to diffuse malicious community rumours, and offer clarity where there is confusion.

The one thing I regularly find myself having to deal with is the assertation that because I use twitter regularly, I am somehow neglecting my job, and spending all day looking at a computer screen. To any doubters out there let me offer some clarity;

I am a Superintendent in the Police. The budget for my area is around 40 million pounds. There are around 800 Police officers and staff working with me at Wolverhampton, looking to me for decisions and leadership. Last year I led and solved four murders….I am therefore actually capable of doing more than one thing at a time!

I am really encouraged by the progress we are making. I commend to anybody about to start tweeting PCSO Lee Haynes and PC Richard Stanley as excellent examples. 

If you are a police officer or PCSO reading this, delay no longer. People want to talk to you, so make a start. If you are a member of the public frustrated at not being able to tweet your local officer, send an e-mail to your local Inspector asking them to get an officer tweeting. Refer them to me if they need any advice.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think…

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14 Responses to “Making progress….”


  1. 1 amandacomms1 April 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Great post – just worth mentioning that PCs and PCSOs need to work within corporate guidelines. In GMP this is about having some training and support to get into social media. Use the professional advice available to get the best from it.

    • 2 suptmarkpayne April 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm

      Agreed, I just worry that if we try and be too corporate, it will put people off. We offer help and advice to our officers in the same way and we haven’t encountered any problems so far.
      Great work on #polchat, really productive. It feels like it may be time for a physical meet with some active practitioners to move it forwards again.

  2. 3 Mike Downes April 1, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I am hanging on by my finger nails that 9 May 2011 will let the floodgates open and someone from Warwickshire Police will start tweeting.

    Yes, I am aware of a few twitter accounts – bit none are from Officers or PCSOs. Supt Payne, if you have any influence – please use it, Warwickshire needs social media. I even have some wifi offices all set up and ready to go for their first Twitcam.

  3. 4 Bod April 2, 2011 at 6:49 am

    It appears Warwickshire Police Authority use Twitter but the front line Police don’t. I have a real bee in my bonnet about it. When I see the good work WMP and others do. I don’t understand why Warwickshire don’t participate. There also appears to be problems updating watch messages. No updates since beginning of Feb.

  4. 5 Simon whittaker April 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

    You should check out the sterling work with social media from psniholywood. They are tweeting and facebooking about local events and issues.

  5. 7 Mike Downes April 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Mark, I would like to know what guidelines the WM Police are following on tweeting? As you know, I am a big fan of tweet on the beat, but the longer this goes on, the more chance of a tweet slipping out that may cause issues.

    Someone commented to me on the last twitcam – as it’s live when the odd piece of sensitive info or inappropriate phrase goes out live. I’ve also heard recently how other media employees are forced to have no twitter account or two (one for 9-5 plus one as their own views).

    Lastly, is twitter a narrative or a journal? A narrative may say, suspect arrested – in court tomorrow. Journal may say the same, but report later of court case and verdict. Just thoughts.

    This comes at a time when certain high level media blogs may be axed leaving some journalists with nowhere to go. I made a private point that each tweet is a webpage and therefore a blog in itself. Mike

  6. 8 suptmarkpayne April 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Mike,

    We have a social media policy, but deliberately haven’t tried to set too many hard and fast rules, as it doesn’t feel to me that SM was designed to work in this way. The simple advice we give to our officers is that SM is just another form of communication. Don’t say anything on a social media site that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in a community meeting, or to a member of the public in the street.

    I don’t agree with two twitter accounts. Policing is a unique business, we are never off duty, and I would caution against syaing something in private, which could be used against you in your working life. In addition there is something about police officers talking about their day to day lives that makes them more human and accessible to the public.

    I would hope that Twitter is a Journal, but I am not sure that we always get this right, and it is something we need to consider as we develop our expertise in this area.

    Thanks for your positive comments.

    Mark

  7. 9 Mike Downes April 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I completely agree and excellent to hear CI Kerry Blakeman on BBC Radio this morning echoing that, hear again here http://audioboo.fm/boos/322128-chief-inspector-kerry-blakeman?utm_campaign=detailpage&utm_content=retweet&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

  8. 10 Angus Fox April 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Mark, What you are writing about here fits well with what we have been saying through our recent submission to ACPO, through our dialogue with the Metropolitan Police about their @co11metpolice twitter account used for the recent protests in London and then promptly ‘shut down’, and through our development of mobile applications to help the police make sense of the potential of social networks use in neighbourhood policing and then throughout the force. (You can find out more about all these at http://www.multizone.co.uk)

    In short, the Police need to appreciate the differences between pervasive adoption of social media and controlled outbound marketing and public relations activity. You are absolutely right to say that you can’t just turn this stuff on and off. Twitter in particular will smoke out the second kind of activity out and people will not be interested enough to follow.

    Long term two way engagement with naturally nominated participants in social networks requires leadership by example, and encouragement to start small, experiment and grow in confidence.

    Just like in commercial companies exploring social media, mistakes will be made, and lessons learned. Also just like in commercial companies low cost software can be provided to help with tone of voice, governance and accountability as well as providing engagement in outcomes of Policing activities.

    Looking forward to discussing this with you.

    Angus

  9. 11 Lasancmt April 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    mark,
    Do you only post comments from underlings that suck up to you?

    Why dd you delete my comment? It’s not that I used abusive language you must be used to anyway by now?

    Why don’t you give a good example and reply to the discussion on West Midlands FaceBook pages for example. practice what you preach!

    http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?topic=21389&uid=81751285098#!/topic.php?uid=81751285098&topic=21205

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=93545116466#!/group.php?gid=199558802231

    • 12 suptmarkpayne April 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

      Marcus, Apologies have had a lot of abusive comments left over the past week, I suspect yours got caught up with them. Having said that I am struggling to find a link between my post and your comments. I don’t know enough about the DNA database to debate it I’m afraid.

      • 13 lasancmt April 23, 2011 at 10:43 am

        Appologies accepted Mark, people get more worked up about an over-paid footballer’s remarks than fundamental Human Rights issues. However you should know and care about the DNA database privacy issues. All police officers plege to uphold Human Rights when they take their Policeman’s oath.
        I guess you must belong to the association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). They certainly have a vieuw on the National DNA database on it. Your Chief Constable gave testimony to a committee of Parliament and is lobbying to ignore a conviction the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire received in Strassburg at the European Cour of Human Rights over this issue. NDAD was also an election issue, part of the ‘great Repeal’ bill currently going through Parliament.

        If you would like to lean more about the issue, the link below is a good start
        http://identityspace.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/the-uk%e2%80%99s-double-standards-around-data-protection-and-human-privacy-rights/


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