SM Tools

Facebook: a Useful Tool for Police?

Most police forces in the UK, now have Facebook pages, but, is Facebook a useful and effective tool for police use? Does it increase community confidence, generate support for the police and provide a mechanism for engagement that meets peoples’ needs?

Those were some of the key questions that the North Down area of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recently set out to find answers to. The results, unveiled publicly at the North Down District Policing Partnership meeting yesterday, seem to say, yes, yes and yes.

PSNI launched a trial of local area Facebook pages nearly 12 months ago, with North Down being one of the pilot areas. Within North Down Facebook pages were set up by the Bangor and Holywood (Twitter: @psnibangor & @psniholywood) neighbourhood teams. By mid November 2010, the pages had 8,000+ registered fans and many more followers. However, numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, were the pages effective?

To find out, PSNI North Down initiated a multi channel survey.

One thousand surveys were posted to local households throughout the Holywood area of North Down; face to face consultation with people in Holywood was undertaken by District Policing Partnership members; survey information was collected from local residents, businesses and parents of primary school pupils; the views of 281 Year 13 and Year 14 pupils were sought in two local colleges; an online survey was created and placed on the PSNI Holywood Facebook page (PSNI’s first online survey of this nature).

The surveys were carried out in November and December 2010 and resulted in 695 completed questionnaires being received. Modestly, the PSNI describes the survey as ‘one of the first comprehensive studies demonstrating the value of social media pages like Facebook to policing’.

Facebook

So what were the findings? Well:

Seven out of ten of the survey respondents (71%) used Facebook, validating the police decision to use the service. Just over half (53%) of all respondents had accessed the PSNI Holywood Facebook page and of those that accessed the page:

85% stated it provides a platform for local people to get involved in making Holywood safer

83% stated it helps increase support for police activity

82% stated it provides information on how people can get involved in making themselves and Holywood safer

75% stated it improves the service offered by Holywood police and

70% stated it increases their confidence in Holywood police.

The page now has over 3,000 registered fans, which is equivalent to 20% of the town’s total population (15,000) and allows police to communicate local crime appeals and prevention advice to as many of 60% of its homes (6,000) instantly.

This level of engagement with local policing is not confined to the one area, but seems to resonate with other communities too. During the same period the pilot Facebook pages in the PSNI Ards area has impressively, gained over 7,000 followers. This equates to 9% of that area’s total population or 20% of it’s homes.

Just over 20% of the survey respondents use Facebook but have not yet accessed the PSNI Holywood page and officers are aware that there remains significant potential for further growth.

Interestingly the survey itself has had a knock on effect and has generated even more awareness of the existence of the page, which in turn appears to have contributed to further recent growth in the numbers of those following.

Satisfaction & Public Confidence

The Facebook Pages are part of a wider neighbourhood policing initiative (that comprised of a range of activities including ride alongs, information cards and wider publicity) in the area, the result of which has been a significant rise in public satisfaction with local policing.

Comparing the survey results with those from Holywood neighbourhood respondents in the 2010 DPP Public Consultation Survey (which was conducted during February/March 2010), there has been an 18% increase in the proportion of respondents who stated the police were doing a good job where they live, and a 5% reduction in the proportion of respondents who stated the police were doing a poor job where they live.

Awareness

Almost one third (32%) of survey respondents said that they know their local neighbourhood police officer, which is an increase of 26% on the 2010 DPP (February March 2010).

Impact

Inspector Bobby Singleton was the Neighbourhood Inspector for Holywood during the trial period and in his view “Facebook has already demonstrated its potential with the recovery of two stolen cars, a stolen bicycle and the arrest of a male for burglary the direct result of appeals through the page. For a small town these were far from insignificant results. It’s great to now have some more hard evidence to support our instincts and the positive anecdotal feedback we’ve received from the public”.

His boss, the Area Commander for North Down, Chief Inspector Mark McEwan, agrees:

“The focus of the initiative has been about developing our relationship with the community; the survey justifies the investment we’ve made over the last twelve months. Through this evaluation we have been able to establish exactly what the benefits of the initiative have been, where we can improve and how much some of our conventional community engagement is still valued by the community”.

Note: Chief Inspector Philip Knox of PSNI Ards will speak about the force’s use of Facebook at the upcoming SMILE Conference in Chicago. Mike Alderson (author of this post) will also appear as a speaker in Chicago.

Mike Alderson is a former senior officer in the UK’s Sussex Police. He is now a Director of Open Eye Communications Ltd, a company which designs and delivers training programmes and provides consultancy services in the police, local authority and wider public sector fields on leadership, customer service, customer experience, effective communication and media management, neighbourhood policing and citizen focused policing. @openeyecomms | Website: Open Eye Communications

Drugs, dealing with the dealers

This week my officers swooped on a large scale drug supplier, we recovered about 4 kilos of class A & class B drugs, together with several thousand pounds cash. The dealer and his accomplice have both been charged and remanded. The week before that the courts granted an order taking £56,000 off another dealer and a further order setting out a repayment order of over £800,000 against him.

I tweeted the result and got a great response, people seem to enjoy seeing drug dealers locked up. I also got another familiar response, ‘Great result but what about the drug dealers where I live?’ Communities see people dealing drugs outside their houses every day, and understandably get frustrated when they don’t see the police taking action. As somebody who has run a drugs job or two, I thought I might set out some of the issues that we have to address when we are dealing with the dealers.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, we have to prove that they have actually dealt some drugs, or intend to deal them. This is not as easy as you might assume. People caught with relatively large quantities of drugs will often claim they are for personal use, but as they are regular users they have ‘bought in bulk.’ Although this might seem ridiculous to normal people, you need to bear in mind that we have to prove everything to a court ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’ All the prospective dealer has to do is establish that doubt and they know they will get away with a simple possession of drugs charge which carries much lighter punishment. Therefore any dealer worth their salt will only carry small amounts at any one time, going back to their stash to stock up on a regular basis.

So if just finding somebody with quantities of drugs is not enough, we have to use different techniques to prove they are dealing. We will often watch several deals take place, arresting the buyer out of the sight of the dealer, to prove to a court that there is a course of action taking place. As you can imagine this carries quite a large risk of compromise. Dealers will tend to sell drugs in areas they know and where they are comfortable. Police activity in these areas will quickly get reported back to the dealers and they will shut up shop.

When we are told about a dealer, we often execute warrants at their houses. Again this does not always bring success. They do not leave their drugs lying about for us to stumble across, they hide them, and they actually put quite a lot of thought into it. The dealer who we took the £56,ooo at the start of this blog was burying his drugs in an old lady’s back garden which was insecure.

Taking out a good drug dealer often required many hours of painstaking surveillance and gathering of evidence. This is expensive and difficult. It requires the completion of reams of forms to get the authorities and the painstaking compliation of the evidence gathered. Drugs are exchanged in very small packages, and it is not always obvious when a deal has taken place, again the ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ arguement is applied, we have to prove that our potential dealer is not a raging socialite who often meets up with 200 people a day for around thirty seconds at a time.

There are few things more satisfying than unearthing a dealers stash, knowing that you have the evidence to link them to it. Police officers continue to arrest dealers and enforce the law, but it is not as straightforwards as you might think. I hope this blog has given you an insight into the day to day battle that we have with dealers, and the reasons why it might appear that we aren’t taking action.

It is really important that people work with us. If you suspect somebody is dealing drugs, tell us. You might not see immediate action, but it starts the ball rolling, and is sometimes the little piece of knowledge that we need. We know communities want to help us, they don’t want dealers on their street corners or outside their kids school. The best weapon we have at our disposal is information from the public.

Thanks for reading, let me have your thoughts…

Mark Payne

Mark is Superintendent for the West Midlands Police, UK; a police officer for 15 years mainly as a detective.   CI Payne was part of the “Police Who Tweet” panel, moderated by Lauri Stevens, at the 140 Characters Conference in London on Nov 17th. Chief Inspector Payne has started his own blog, where this article was also published. He tweets as @CIPayneWMPolice

SMILE Conference Huge Success In Santa Monica, Next Stop Chicago

social media & law enforcement

The SMILE Conference held 01/10/11 to 01/12/11 in Santa Monica, California was a huge success. Beyond the fact that the conference sold out and there were more sponsors (Raytheon, Alderson Software/Crime Stoppers, Securitas) than the initial SMILE conference in Washington D.C. 04/2010, this conference was hosted graciously by the Santa Monica Police Department at the awesome Rand Center. The sponsors and accommodations were great, but the speakers and attendees were really what made this conference awesome. There were over 120 attendees representing 5 different countries and law enforcement agencies all over the United States as well as the world.

The expertise that was shared from Chief Jackman (Santa Monica P.D.) to Mike Bostic (Raytheon) and all speakers in between was intimidating to me as a fellow speaker. As a speaker you would assume you are on the same level as the other speakers, but for me personally I ended up learning much more than I shared. Not surprising, but a particularly interesting presentation for me was Mike Bostic’s presentation on “LTE and What it Means to Public Safety: a Convergence of All Internet Capabilities” had my mind spinning. Another area I was not nearly as knowledgeable of was “Cyber Bullying.” Tuesday’s speakers focused on the topic of “Cyber Bullying” and other internet crimes such as child pornography, sexual predators, and other sex related crimes. The speaker caliber for Tuesday’s presentations was top notch as were the speakers for all days presentations.

I am honored to have been a speaker at both SMILE Conferences thus far and I am looking forward to participating in the next SMILE Conference in Chicago May 9th-11th 2011, to be hosted by the Chicago Police Department.

5 Reasons the Army is issuing iPhone and Android Smartphones to Troops

social media and law enforcementThe Army budget morphs that of individual law enforcement agencies, but thinking outside the box seems to be consistent on the battle field. The US Army is going to equip their field soldiers on the front lines with iPhones and or Android mobile device as soon as the Spring of 2011. I originally saw an article on www.digitaltrends.com and tracked the original information to the www.armytimes.com website. As a mobile device evangelist, enthusiast, I find the Army’s action to be an obvious technology progression of both physical mobile devices and web 2.0 technologies. Below are 5 reasons why the Army is issuing mobile devices to troops.



social media and law enforcement

1)Portability- Mobile devices are small enough to slip into a pants pocket, jacket pocket, ruck sack, duffle bag, etc.

2) Powerful- Smartphone’s have become mini laptops in the last year or so and upcoming generations of these devices will boast duo core processors, increased graphics, more HD video capture models and overall more power.

3) Real Time Intelligence- At war smart phones would let soldiers view real-time intelligence and video from unmanned systems overhead. Drones would be able to provide intelligence to field personnel via smartphone. While this certainly already occurs with laptops, laptops are unreasonable to carry individually.

social media and law enforcement

4) Real Time Maps- Track friends and enemies on dynamic maps, this could certainly be life saving.

5) Real Time Information- Soldiers will have the opportunity to use network searches, email, MMS, and get information real time while in critical situations, through individual mobile devices.

My first thought was how are the soldiers going to access a network? Not to worry, the Army has already been working on this with basically a portable or mobile cell tower that would provide soldiers a mobile network in battlefield situations. There really is no argument why this is not a brilliant move by the Army to equip their troops with more information. Does law enforcement see the same benefit as the Army does from mobile devices? I think issuing police officers iPhone and or Android smartphone’s is also a no brainer, what do you think?

This blog post original appeared on 12/19/10 Social Media Five-O by Michael F. Vallez

Communication Teams and the Public

Having taken part in a session entitled ‘Press Office vs Bloggers’ at the recent #HyperWM event at Walsall College, and the ‘Tweets’ since the event, I have decided to write this blog to capture the issues and what can be learnt.

It was obvious from the start that there was going to be polarised opinion within the session between the bloggers in the room and the press officers representing their organisations. I will try to list some of the issues as I saw them.

Change in communications

The crux of the matter seemed to be this:

The bloggers felt they weren’t getting responses to their questions from the press officers. The press officers felt that they were there to push organisational information to the media, not individuals, be they bloggers or not.

I believe that while organisations still need to use the conventional methods of communication through the media, times have moved on from 10 years ago when this was the primary form of communication. Due to the opening up of  web communications through social media tools such as Twitter and Blogs, members of the community have arguably become just as important as the media. We should surely therefore respond to questions from the community as we respond to those from the media.

It is not acceptable in today’s communication world to ignore these digital engagement channels. In fact we should embrace these as people who follow bloggers and Twitteres are those actively reading posts being pushed out and are therefore a more willing audience…  A Direct Marketing campaign  is successful  if  it achieves a 3% return . Using digital channels I would expect this to be very much higher.

Lack of information

Another concern from the bloggers was that often they can’t find the information that they wish to communicate to their readers. They are happy to research the organisation’s website to find the information and then to compose their article themselves – they are not necessarily looking for the press office to write the article for them! They may seek to get a perspective from the organisation to add to the article.

The concern is that they are often thwarted as the information is not within the website; or if it is, it’s not easily available and difficult to search for. Public Sector organisations are obliged to publish information through the Public Scheme (link). As the Publication Scheme manager for my organisations, I personally feel that organisations should try to provide more than just what is required under the scheme.

Therefore Publication Scheme managers, Communications managers and Web Managers must try to provide as much information as possible through the website for the public. This is not only for the Bloggers but general members of the community to link to in Tweets or to read on the website itself!

Bloggers can be positive

In the session it was suggested that Bloggers are negative about organisations and therefore this is the reason that they are not being engaged. There were a number of bloggers within the session all of whom stated that they are fair in their articles – if sometimes a little persistent! They want to work with the organisations to help them get the information to the local people that they ‘represent’. To do this they need a meaningful conversation with the press office team.

A press officer for a local government organisation stated that they are there to communicate and provide information to the media and not the bloggers. I don’t think that bloggers can blame the press officers themselves as they are working within the guidelines set out for them by the organisation. Therefore the issue I think is more to do with lack of understanding by those leading communications within these organisations –  the way people receive their information has changed – people will view TV programmes when they want to (SkyBox, iPlayer etc), will get news information through feeds from multiple sources and Twitter, etc.

Therefore in my opinion if the press office embraces the fact that bloggers can help get the information out to the communities this can be a positive thing for the organisation. As a good friend has mentioned “Press Offices are like Life on Mars – still in the 1980’s”.

Note: This post was previously published on the UK Police Web Managers Blog.

Sasha Taylor is the eCommunications Officer and manages the eCommunications Team at Warwickshire Police, UK. He is responsible for the Intranet website, Newsflash (the force’s media logging software), plasma screens as well as the eight force websites. Sasha provides solutions and develops new concepts for the force which are in line with Warwickshire’s Policing Priorities. Sasha is also the Project Manager of the Child Rescue Alert Scheme for Warwickshire Police, is a member of the National Police Web Managers Group, member of the National Working Group for www.askthe.police.uk website, as well as being a Warwickshire Crimestoppers board member and registered Thinkuknow trainer (www.thinkuknow.co.uk).

PoliceOne iPhone App Review-Nice Mobile Police News App

social media and law enforcement

PoliceOne.com is one of my favorite law enforcement websites for police news, blogs, and product reviews. PoliceOne, which is also a Smile Conference sponsor has recently come out with an iPhone app. Their iPhone app is a very nice compliment to their website.

social media and law enforcement social media and law enforcement

The PoliceOne iPhone app opens up to a main or home screen and has a bottom navigation bar with home, news, photos, columns, and tips navigation tabs. The news tab will keep you up to date with the most recent and most popular news articles that have been posted on the PoliceOne website. The Photos section provides a picture with a brief story surrounding each image. The column section is the most in depth allowing users to browse by recent columns or columnists. Lastly, there is a tips tab that provides a potpourri of critical information to help law enforcement officers across the board.

The PoliceOne.com iPhone app is a nice resource for getting the latest police news on the go. The apps functionality is good to great, but it does leave out a few things that I feel would make this iPhone app awesome. Namely, the ability to share articles, pictures, and tips through Facebook, Twitter, and or email. This feature would not only allow PoliceOne getting to get there content in front of a larger audience, but this also allows the user to share content with friends, co-workers, etc. Another great addition to this app would be the inclusion of all the blogs that can be found on the main website. Overall, I give this app a 4.0 out of 5.0 stars and think you will like this iPhone app if you are interested in police news & tips. If you have any questions about this iPhone app or any iPhone/iPad apps please leave a comment or email me at mfvallez@gmail.com.

24 hours on Twitter for Greater Manchester Police

Call 384 report of man holding baby over bridge – police immediately attended and it was man carrying dog that doesn’t like bridges.

Call 358 woman calls about car she abandoned at petrol station in Bury after she put the wrong fuel in yesterday.

Both of these calls were real, genuine calls to the police for assistance that were logged on Twitter as part of the 24 hour initiative on Thursday, October 14th. The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, in the UK, wanted to show people the wide range of issues that officers and staff have to deal with every day.

There were many traditional ways we could have used to achieve this – releasing statistics about calls during 24 hours or allowing TV crews to follow officers for a day. But we wanted it to be real time and to have immediacy to people. We faced many challenges to being able to achieve the end result. Not least was the practicality of getting information from the call handling system onto Twitter ensuring we didn’t breach confidentiality, put lives at risk or assist criminals.

In the end it was a manual release of the data that was agreed as the best way forward. It allowed for data to be checked, to ensure that information wasn’t released that would cause problems for investigations and to recognise the confidentiality required. This was supported with decisions that there would be a tweet for everything regardless of the difficulties it may create. This ensured honesty to the release of the data as there was no screening taking place.

The end result was a process that demonstrated openness, accountability and transparency. It allowed people to sit alongside the call handlers for 24 hours but not in just one location, across the whole of the Greater Manchester area. An area that is home to 2.4million people and is a thriving economic and tourist centre. People could use the tweets to see inside the control room, the cells, and ride along with the police cars.

It was all relatively simple get the information from the call handlers and use corporate communications staff to condense it into 140 characters. We anticipated that we would have between 2,500 and 3,000 calls on an average day. Something we deal with day in day out. Not something however, that Twitter could cope with and we ended up in Twitter jail on a number of occasions during the 24 hours.

This was no PR stunt. It was about using the most appropriate method available, in this case Twitter, to provide public information. We already provide access to pages and pages of crime statistics on a regular basis. To tweet information was no different, it was just using a different method. All this was only possible because there was a clear social media strategy that had been agreed by senior police officers. They knew what the plans were and could see how this Twitter day would fit with the strategy.

The calls were not just the random selection of unusual events including loose horses and cows there were human tragedies including burglaries, gun crime and assaults. The Chief Constable had shown through Twitter in the 3205 tweets that appeared during the 24 hours that officers and staff had to deal with a vast range of issues.

GMP24 captured the attention across the world and became a top trending subject long after the 24-hours tweets had stopped. It demonstrated what social media could do to support the police and other agencies. The important thing now is how we take it forward. What more can we do to provide people with an opportunity to understand how law enforcers keep them safe? How can we link the social media with traditional communication and work with the media? Do we have staff with the skills to make this happen?

For Greater Manchester Police the challenge now is to ensure that we build on the success of the day and find new and innovative ways to use social media.

Amanda Coleman

Amanda has more than 10 years experience in senior communications roles within the police service and is currently responsible for the Corporate Communications function at Greater Manchester Police.

Initially, trained as a journalist Amanda worked on local newspapers throughout the North West of England before moving into public relations working for a number of public sector organisations.

She has led the communication team at Greater Manchester Police during some challenging times including the death of the former Chief Constable and numerous counter terrorism investigations. Amanda has been part of the Force’s work to improve community engagement and communication. She was also responsible for the development of the GMP Twitter Day activity in October 2010 where the Force published details of all calls received in a 24 hour period.

Global Police Yammer

Let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Sjors Provoost and I’m working as in Innovation Broker for the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police in The Netherlands. Be sure to check out the department’s cool new website, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. I do not have a police background myself, but I work with a very experienced colleague.

Our job is to facilitate innovation within our region and my job is to bring in fresh ideas from outside and ask difficult questions. I talk, tweet, blog and read about subjects such as social media and government as a platform. How does one make a solid business case for a new methodology (or any methodology for that matter) in an organization not driven by profit, but by a very complex and ever changing combination of politics, public opinion, criminals and people in need? Get in touch with me if you find the answer…



Yammer

Let’s talk about real time internal communication. Internal – in my view – can mean within your local police department, within the police force of an entire country or even the global police world. I’d like to discuss one particular tool: Yammer. Yammer is like Twitter: you send short messages out to the world and anyone interested in you will read them. This is different from email or letters where you – the sender – chooses who should read it. In social media it’s the reader who decides who to listen to.

The difference between Yammer and Twitter is that Yammer offers a bit more privacy. By default it only allows access to people with a department email address. That means only your colleagues can read and write messages.

But what I especially like about it is that you know that each and everyone on the network is talking about work related interesting things. It makes it really easy to find new colleagues to keep in touch with.

In The Netherlands 18 out of 26 regional police departments and 3 national organizations are experimenting with Yammer. Anyone with a department email address can join without permission (from a technical point of view; verification is handled by Yammer). Most join because they were invited by a colleague. There is also a national Yammer network. Anyone can join automatically if they are a member of any of the regional networks, others are verified manually.

There’s 250 cops on the Dutch Police Yammer and almost 1000 spread over the local networks. The numbers keep growing rapidly, even though it has no formal status, our work computers are barely able to use the website (outdated browser) and there aren’t many company smart-phones (many colleagues use a private smart phone). I think that says something about enthusiasm and I’m sure that with those problems out of the way, many of the remaining 61,000 Dutch cops will climb on board in no time.

Topics on the National Yammer network are usually related to social media best practices. That’s a good thing and it’s probably due to social media enthusiasts climbing on board first. But I’m also seeing other topics pop up like video conferencing, links to newspaper articles about us and the potential use of QR Codes. There’s a strong innovative bias, which is great if innovation is your job.

Global Policy Yammer Community

After the SMILE conference in April we decided to take things one step further and start a global police yammer community. To sign up, go here and follow the instructions. A moderator will need to verify your identity. This is a little tricky in international context, so please also email a quick introduction to me (sjors.provoost@rijnmond.politie.nl) or to Lauri Stevens (lauri@lawscomm.net).

The Global Police Yammer Network was created by Ed Sabel, the web advisor and Editor in Chief of webservices at Police Brabant Sid Oost, inn the Netherlands.  He explained, “Yammer is a mobile closed community, but gives us the possibility to pull vital information of the society in our law enforcement organisations by use of a combination with Twitter. It also is an opportunity to coöperate in law enforcement worlwide, whereever you are (mobile use) and whenever you like. ‘We’ know more than I”.

Most of its current members are Dutch cops politely chatting in English, but there are already a number of international colleagues. Messages can be longer than on Twitter, but let’s keep them short. Long discussions are better held in places like LinkedIn.

A note of warning: the global police yammer is inherently not ultra secure. Neither is any group setting, but the problem grows exponentially with these kind of technologies. Don’t yammer around highly confidential information, not even as a private message to a femme fatale unless you want it to end up on WikiLeaks. In other words; it’s as private as room that you haven’t checked for hidden microphones. That leaves plenty to talk about.

Potential and trust

Wouldn’t it be great to have something like Yammer to discuss top secret stuff as well? What if you’re working on a case involving suspects and victims in ten different countries? What if you could instantly add a bunch of colleagues from all over the world to an ad hoc chat network dedicated to a specific case or problem area?

One of the big issues in ad hoc international cooperation is trust. How do you know that the detective working on your case in a far away unknown foreign country with dubious democratic practices can be trusted? It takes a long time to build trust and it may take a long time to go through your (flesh and bone) social network to find out who’s on the other side of the communication.

I ran into this site by pure chance. I’m not suggesting that we use it, but it points to a possible solution. Basically it’s an online reputation and circle of trust management system. Investigator A in Rotterdam trusts investigator B in London who trusts investigator C in Shanghai with his life. Using an automated system like the investigator A could contact investigator C without having to first call investigator B for advise. This is similar to how Couch Surfing allows complete strangers to stay in your house with rarely any incidents.

This is slightly outside my area of expertise, so I’d be really interested to know if there is  (innate) need for that or these things are already happening. You can contact me in the comments, on Twitter or at sjors.provoost@rijnmond.politie.nl [Spam will be reported to the police :-) ]

Twitter: Who’s following who?

This is a bit of research I did to investigate the different types of followers of a typical police Twitter channel in the United Kingdom. I looked at each follower and determined which of the nine categories they best fit. The pie chart shows the most relevant category first (local public), moving round clockwise to the least relevant category (unknown). Unknown followers were those with no obvious information on location and usually had no tweets and/or very few followers of their own. These can be considered irrelevant as they are either spam or redundant accounts.

The findings show that 44% of the total followers were relevant local members of the public or local businesses with a further 11% of local partnerships, websites and media. In total 51% of the total followers are local with the remaining 49% made up of public and businesses located outside the local area – in fact, some from overseas. It must be noted that although a large percentage of the businesses were likely to have been touting for business, the out-of-area public followers could well be ex-locals, locals working overseas, and friends or family of people in the local area. A significant number of followers were other forces and police agencies both in the UK and overseas.

Based on these findings, it is safe to conclude that around 60%-70% of followers are local people, businesses, partnership organisations and media together with other people and businesses from outside the local area who have a significant interest in the Twitter channel they have followed. About 30%-40% of the remaining followers are not particularly interested in the Twitter channel or not interested at all.

To follow or not to follow?

There seems to be a keen debate about whether to follow your followers or not. Some sources suggest that followers should be followed to show commitment to 2-way communication and establish the opportunity for both parties to Direct Message each other if required. Twitter is all about a conversation after all and not a one-way channel. If a one-way communication channel is all that is required, the RSS feeds which services most police force twitter channels are more then adequate.

However, there are also arguments that following the followers of your Twitter channel will cause an administrative burden and invite a number of incoming messages which will require timely replies and further admin commitments. It must be noted that, regardless of who is followed, messages can always be directed @ us which still require a timely reply.

Some have suggested that not following relevant followers (i.e. the 60%-70% of those highlighted above), is similar to them acknowledging us in the street with a friendly ‘hello’ but being ignored by us in return.

Comments about this post are welcomed – especially opinions about the ‘to follow or not to follow’ debate.

David White

David White is a media professional from Essex, UK and has worked for the police service for 24 years.  He has worked as a photographer within the Scenes of Crime division and as a video camera operator, editor and 3D graphics animator for the Video Unit. Since 1998 he has worked on the Essex Police website as the Web Manager and is currently researching social media and efficiency saving opportunities for the UK police service with the National Police Web Managers Group. @beaker9 @npwmg @essexpoliceuk @epolicemuseum

When Police Chiefs (Leaders) Blog!

As a patrolman while working at the Tampa P.D. I only had contact with the Chief when I was awarded the “Officer of the Month” honor and when I was medically retired. Tampa P.D. is a fairly large department so contact with executive staff members may be less than officers realize at medium to smaller law enforcement agencies. Probably unless you are in a very small department you do not have much contact with the Chief or executive leadership unless you work with them directly or have been disciplined more than once. The idea of direct contact with Chief’s or executive leadership on an informal yet professional forum in my opinion may pay big dividends to law enforcement agencies. Having the opportunity to speak with the Chief or an executive leader to express ideas, thoughts, best practices, regarding work topics is a huge opportunity to hear from the employee who is engaged in the day to day operations of the business.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is on the forefront of blogging and in particular the US Army who has 22 different blogs. The US Army is massive, but the learning lesson here is leadership is having conversations with their subordinates in a less formal, yet professional manner and it has been successful. While participating in the SMILE Conference Jack Holt, Sr. Stategist for New/Emerging Media for the DoD stated “Generals felt they got more honest answers from the field troops via the blog than through in person visits.” This is very important for leaders to realize. A passing conversation with a troop, or a roll call visit probably is not as personable or scalable as interacting with employees through a blog. The DoD is engaging their employees and communicating with them via blogs, which can have positive impact on: 1) Communication 2) Morale 3) Problem solving 4) Decreased costs and so on.

When Chief’s or senior leaders blog I think they will soon realize the value of doing so. A blog can be created rather easily and learning to blog can be considered a part of communication, not a new unknown activity.