Policing:Further adventures on Twitter

Over the past 24 hours, the Local Policing Unit from Birmingham South have been tweeting live incidents and their officers’ responses to them. Armed only with a hashtag (#bsp24) and a new twitter account, they have ventured out into the world of social media. Judging by the excellent feedback they have received, I am sure they will be  extremely pleased with the results.

Two weeks ago, I spoke to the Commander from Birmingham South, Phil Kay, and discussed the idea with him. He is really forward thinking and had already set the ball rolling with his communications team. At that point they had around 70 people following them on Twitter. By the end of the 24 hour output they had well over 1000.

I have blogged before about the need for police forces to engage more pro-actively in the area of social media, and the example above really does illustrate the point.  The communities of South Birmingham clearly want to engage with and talk to the Police. The Commander and his staff now have the ability to communicate with 1000 more people than they had at this point two weeks ago, and perhaps more importantly (and this is the key strength of social media), the community has a way to talk back.

Throughout my years in the Police, we have always struggled to get some communities to engage with us. We labelled those communities as ‘hard to reach.’ It turns out that they were not that hard to reach, we were just reaching in the wrong places. Social media platforms provide us with an absolutely fantastic opportunity to have conversations with people, to recognise their problems and to tell them what we are doing about them.

In the 18 months or so since I first blogged about this issue, the situation in UK policing has improved significantly, there are now some fantastic examples of officers using social media in new and innovative ways. However there are still large areas where there is no social media presence, where officers are actively prevented from engaging by force policies which have simply not caught up with the technological advances of the last decade.

There are now hundreds of officers up and down the country using social media. To my knowledge no riots have been triggered, no officers have been sacked, we have not had to spend huge amounts of money and there have been no breaches of the official secrets act. What we have had is lots of conversations with the people we police and forged some really positive relationships.

To those police areas not currently engaged, I ask the same question as I did in my first blog; Why are you waiting?


5 Responses to “Policing:Further adventures on Twitter”

  1. 1 wolvesparkies January 28, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Great blog. Totally agree. Would love to follow a #wolvespolice24 in the same vein as #bsp24 – less formal and more interactive than the #gmp24. #GMP24 was a great start but seemed much more automated and formal. Even though we are aware of crime in our communities, knowing that there are enforcers dealing with situations; understanding that there are always more good guys/gals out there helps change preconceptions/perceptions of risk.

    We all need to be aware and vigilant but even the seemingly small tweets during bad weather reminding car owners to lock cars, not leave them unattended with engines running, etc were all like gentle reminders from neighbours/friends. We were particularly grateful for our ‘bobbies’ re-tweeting our safety messages about ice/snow covered lakes/ponds and other open water etc.

    (IMO) Social engagement encourages the shy to share their opinions, offer feedback/suggestions and complain/compliment without formalities. We love engaging with our local bobbies such as @SgtJakeFlanagan @JJones8157WMP @SgtSidJames @PCSomebody and particularly @PCSO31115WMP.

    Good luck with the blog and new role and hope to meet more of our Wolverhampton ‘bobbies’ at the next #wolvestweetup.

  2. 4 tubblog January 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Mark – thanks for providing a great blog post giving some background on a well executed idea. I think #bsp24 was a fantastic initiative, and the feedback I’ve heard from residents in the Birmingham South area who followed the “Tweet-a-thon” were really positive.

    I blogged about your idea (http://bit.ly/dJx829) and the article was fortunate enough to be “Freshly Pressed” (a highlighted article for the day) over at WordPress.com – subsequently thousands of worldwide readers are aware of, and praising, Birmingham South Police’s “Tweet-a-thon”.

    Congratulations to all involved!

  3. 5 Minty February 2, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I followed the GMP #24 with immense interest, I wish I had known about the #bsp.
    I follow a number of WMP officers on Twitter and it does give insight into the day to day job that they do. It also shows that they are very much human as well.
    Like many things, used wisely things such as Twitter and Facebook have vast benefits.

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