Calgary Police Service to Host Live Twitter Chat

Calgarians Encouraged to Particpate!

Are you on Facebook? What about Twitter? Do you blog?

The Calgary Police Service wants to know how you like to communicate online. We want to find out how we can use digital tools and social media to better serve you! On

Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, we’re hosting a live chat on Twitter to talk about how the Calgary Police Service can best use digital technology to communicate and provide services to you.

We’ll be hosting the live chat between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Twitter. Follow the hashtag #TellCPS and share your thoughts, ideas and opinions on this topic – every idea is welcome. If you’re not on Twitter, you can use TweetChat to observe the discussion.

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of developing the Calgary Police Service’s online presence.

For you Facebook fans, stay tuned, we’re gearing up for a live chat there soon!

TweetChat hashtag: #TellCPS Twitter: @calgarypolice Facebook:

For more information contact: Michelle Dassinger Public Affairs/Media Relations Unit 403-206-7979 Tweet Questions to #TellCPS

Social Media Quick Tip: Track Twitter Conversations

Put the Cnut & Bettween apps in your investigations arsenal

If there’s a Twitter user who turns into a person of interest, an investigator could go to their Twitter page and see the last few tweets to and from that POI. But it’s easier to just use an app. Here are two quick and easy ways to not only see who someone is tweeting, but also what they are tweeting about.

1. Cnut: With Cnut, put in a Twitter username and you’re presented with all the tweets to, from and mentioning that user. It only shows tweets from the past few days, but is a quick and easy way to get a visual depiction of that person’s latest Twitter activity.

2. Bettween: The second app goes a bit further. Check out This site allows you to put in a Twitter username and it returns to you the people with whom they actually exchange tweets, in reverse order of number. Then you can click to view the conversations.

There are tens of thousands of third-party applications to leverage Twitter. The last estimate I recall was that it was more than 70,000, and that was about a year ago. Some apps come and go, and none of them are perfect. Flexibility and acceptance of change is key to getting along in this world of social media. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find one or two apps that come in handy.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on

The Tactical Advantages of Twitter

The verdict in a contention case is expected in a matter of weeks, and no matter what the jury’s decision, the city streets are likely to fill with protesters, and it could get really ugly. As highly trained law of officers, you know what needs to be done. Until reckoning day, you create the integrated policing unit, you meet, you plan, you train. The front line and support officers are well prepared and well provisioned.

  1. Incident Command Structure designed. – CHECK
  2. Critical personnel identified. – CHECK
  3. Support systems in place. – CHECK
  4. Front-line provisions: Shields, Batons, Tasers. – CHECK, CHECK, CHECK
  5. Twitter. – CHECK

Whoa, Wait, Whaaaaa?…………. Twitter?

How could it be possible that something with a name like Twitter could be a serious law enforcement tactic? One very macho Nebraska cop once said “I won’t use Twitter until they come up with more manly terms.” That was more than a year ago. It probably comes as no surprise that to this day, he doesn’t tweet. But despite it’s name and the turquoise feathered mascot, it doesn’t mean Twitter isn’t really useful for law enforcement operations.

Here are three ways Twitter could be used in a situation like the one described above to create tactical advantages, no kidding.

  1. Talk directly to any antagonist, IN THE MOMENT
  2. Follow any POI without them knowing
  3. Map a tweet to see exactly from where it came geographically

Talk directly to any antagonist. I like to also call this one “Seizing the virtual scene”. Any protestor, these days, as s/he is doing what protestors do, is tweeting as they do it. But they don’t necessarily follow each other. So how can they communicate via Twitter and know that other protesters see what they tweet? The answer is in the #hashtag. Law enforcement can use the same opportunity to inject its messages of public safety directly into that same conversation and thereby taking control of the virtual scene.

What’s a hashtag? A hashtag on Twitter is simply a word, or an acronym that is preceded with the hash mark, aka pound sign (#). In Twitter, beginning a word with that symbol makes it clickable. You click on it and you get all the tweets sent with that hashtag IN them. What’s the relevance? If you just tweet as the PD, especially in a contentious situation, the people you really want to see those tweets probably won’t. Maybe some of your followers will see them. But the protestors won’t, because they aren’t following you, they’re following the hashtag(s) for the event.

A hashtag can be created immediately, right on the spot. If the media or the public hasn’t created a hashtag that is relevant to your event, create it yourself. Keep it as short as possible as it uses up some of your 140 characters in every tweet. Then, check to see that it’s not being used to signify something else (with a quick Twitter search), then just USE IT in your tweets. Others (media) will follow and also use the hashtag.

In the above-described scenario, as in any mob situation, a few people are really angry and/or motivated and the rest are just following along. On Twitter, all it takes is one or a few of them to begin to suggest acts of violence or spread rumors that might agitate. Until Twitter, you had no way of communicating directly to them, in the moment. The officers at the scene, even if they could get through to them don’t really know the details themselves. But back at incident command, details are known. So put a communications officer in the fusion center and feed him or her some tweets, and use the hashtag.

By using the hashtag relevant to an event, you are injecting yourself into that situation/event. You are forcing people who could otherwise care less about what you have to say to see what you have to say. The protesters who are following the hashtag will start seeing your tweets. Their first reaction might be surprise that you’re there. Beyond that is the potential to influence the actions of the less radical – those follower-types who can be swayed either way, might make a better decision. If they see tweets of reality and public safety coming from law enforcement, they might think twice about their own actions.

Superintendent Mark Payne of the West Midlands (UK) Police experienced this phenomenon first hand last year during a protest between the two groups “English Defense League” and “United Against Fascism”. Both groups were using Twitter to communicate and had incorporated the hashtags: #edl (English Defense League) and #uaf (United Against Fascism) in their messaging. Prior to the event, they had used Twitter to spread misinformation about the other, resulting in increased tensions. Superintendent Payne (then a Chief Inspector) decided to work directly from the scene of the protests. He wrote this about the event on the ConnectedCOPS blog:

Using the iPhone I was able to use Tweetdeck to monitor a range of messages from all sides of the argument. I was in touch with the command cell, and able to dispel rumours instantly. Before the start of the protest, there was a message posted on Facebook that EDL members had smashed the windows of a mosque overnight. I checked, found it was not true, and tweeted a message to say so. Then a tweet was circulated that an EDL steward had been stabbed by UAF supporters, again after checking I was able to refute the allegation. This carried on throughout the day. When the EDL broke through police lines, I was able to update people straight away, and all significant events during the day were subject to messages.
~Superintendent Mark Payne, West Midlands Police

The added benefit is that the media will closely follow the tweets as well, increasingly the likelihood of accurate reporting on the outcome.

Two ways to secretly follow any POI. With Twitter’s list feature, users can create up to 20 lists. Each list can be made public or private. Leading up to any public safety event, or for any long-term surveillance reasons, put persons of interest on a list and keep it marked “private”. Then follow that list (either manually within Twitter or with Twitter management tools such as TweetDeck or HootSuite) without the knowledge of those listed.

A second way to follow someone without their knowledge is to simply put the URL (web address) of their Twitter RSS feed into an RSS reader.

Put tweets on a map. Both Google and Bing have Twitter mapping functionality that, for the users who have geo-location enabled, allow you to see the exact location of their tweets.

For example, Bing Twitter maps are searchable by location, keyword, or Twitter username. In the above scenario, put in the intersecting streets of the protest and see what tweets are happening in the area. Or, if there’s a particularly offensive tweeter, literally watch his or her movements as s/he moves about.

In Google maps, try putting the RSS feed of any Twitter user into the search bar. If they enable geo-location, see their tweets from where they tweeted them.

It’s all Grist for the Mill
No social media tool is the magic answer to law enforcement’s toolbox, and neither should social media be seen as the holygrail within your overall communication scheme. But when approached with proactive planning and realistic expectations, social media can prove to be a very valuable tactical device for law enforcement.

This post was previously published in The California Peace Officer.

Related articles:

Using Twitter Hashtags for Emergency Management, by Scott Mills

Seizing the Virtual Scene, by Lauri Stevens

Social Media Quick Tip: Clean Up Your Twitter Following

If you follow a lot more people than follow you back, Twitter won’t allow you to follow more people

There are tens of thousands of third-party applications to help us use Twitter. Hundreds of those are designed specifically to help determine who to unfollow. Why would you want to unfollow someone? Two reasons to unfollow someone are:

1. Because the account is inactive; and

2. Because they’re not following you.

It’s good to keep your following well-maintained. If you follow a lot more people than follow you back, Twitter will not allow you to follow more people. Additionally, in case it matters to you, on Twitter, it’s not considered good form. Although there are many tools to help with this, here are two I use often:

1. This handy little tool allows you to sign in with your Twitter account and see the people you follow who haven’t tweeted in months. You can select how many days it’s been and then select who to unfollow.

2. Sign in with your Twitter credentials. The next screen allows you to decide if you want to view unfollowers (those you follow who don’t follow you) or fans (those who follow you who you don’t follow). Both are good to take a look at and decide for yourself if you’d like to make adjustments.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on

Portland OR Police Bureau embracing social media

In May 2011, I had the opportunity to attend the SMILE Conference in Chicago and I came back incredibly energized with moving forward on our use of social media. One of the ideas presented at the conference was from Chief Grogan of Dunwoody, GA, about promoting an event via social media to draw followers.

On Friday June 3, 2011, the Portland Police Bureau released the artwork for its new police car logos via Facebook. A news release was sent out 2 days prior and informed the community that the new design would be launched on Facebook. We encouraged people to come “like” us to see the design.

Portland Police Bureau Facebook numbers had been growing at roughly 40 per week but in the 3 days leading up to and following the vehicle design launch, 451 new people “liked” the Portland Police Bureau. Twitter followers jumped as well and the hope is that it will continue to increase because the Portland Police Bureau’s official Twitter handle (@PortlandPolice) is going to be on the new patrol cars. In addition, the Bureau also maintains a second Twitter handle (@ppbpio) for media releases and information.

In the very near future, the goal is to have officers in each of the three precincts and the Traffic Division maintaining Twitter and Facebook accounts to connect directly with the communities they serve. The Bureau has recently purchased iPads for the two PIOs and is looking at smart phones for officers to use in the field.

The Portland Police Bureau is developing a strategic communications plan and social media is playing a big role in its development. The Office of Public Information is staffed by two full-time sworn Public Information Officers, and three non-sworn members. Part of the communications plan includes a push toward social media journalism and producing stories to be delivered directly to the community via social media platforms.

Though traditional media remains a constant news stream for community members, the ability to tell our own story directly to community members via social media is beneficial. Recent studies conclude that people are getting their news increasingly from social media and our agency is working toward being connected with those people.

Become a “friend” of the Portland Police Bureau at and follow us on Twitter @PortlandPolice.

Sergeant Pete Simpson is an 18-year-veteran of the Portland Police Bureau. Sergeant Simpson worked in the Gang Enforcement Team for 11 years as an officer and detective before promoting to Sergeant in 2008. Sergeant Simpson was a Hostage Negotiator for 7 years as well as an instructor for the National Gang Center in Tallahassee, Florida. Sergeant Simpson is currently assigned to the Chief’s Office as one of the Public Information Officer’s for the Portland Police Bureau.

Social Media Quick Tip: Organize Your Twitter Stream

Put neighboring law enforcement agencies & your agency’s tweeting officers on separate lists

Creating lists on Twitter is a good way to prevent being overwhelmed with the tweets of everybody you follow.

For some time now, Twitter has offered users the ability to create lists of Twitter accounts. Every user can make up to 20 lists. On your Twitter page, find the drop-down menu that says “lists.” It’s not difficult to figure out how to use the list feature from there.


You might like to put neighboring law enforcement agencies on a list, your agency’s tweeting officers on another list, social media authorities on another, local media on another, and so on. If you’re familiar with Tweetdeck or HootSuite, you can then import those lists creating a separate stream for each, and monitor them with the attention to each you feel is appropriate. It’s a good way to not get overwhelmed with the tweets of everybody you follow.

The cool thing about lists is that you can keep them private. If you create a private list, people on it don’t know they’re on it. This is useful if you want to keep an eye on some people without them knowing it. Add to that, you can put Twitter accounts on a list whether you’re following them or not. This way, you can follow tweets of a select group of people without them knowing the cops are on their tail, twitterly speaking.

Also of note: You can follow lists others have created the same way you can create and follow your own lists.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on

Social Media Handbook for Police: Part 10

Welcome to the the next installment in my series of social media tips. These are aimed primarily at a police audience, but hopefully applicable to a wider group of people too, especially those in the public sector. This series of posts will aim to identify some good practice and useful hints and tips for police officers and staff to consider when using social media.

Part 10: Operational Use

One of the more common themes around police use of social media is the question of how it can be used operationally. There is often a lot of scepticism – it is fine for ‘engagement’ but not for so called ‘real policing’. A number of forward thinking forces and individuals have however made a great deal of progress using social media in the more operational areas of policing.

I have already blogged about how better engagement leads to operational outcomes, so won’t repeat that here. This post is all about using social media in public order.

Public Order

Policing of public order is changing rapidly. Demonstrators have become aware of the power of organising marches and protests over the internet, and the rise of mobile social media such as Twitter on smartphones has meant that protests can be organised almost spontaneously, and without a clear leadership or organising group. This obviously causes difficulties for policing – in the UK forces are used to negotiating with groups about marches and protests, agreeing routes and locations, and using information on routes, numbers etc to plan for the degree of policing required in advance.

Social media has also been used by protestors to push false information in order to stir up trouble. Tweets from the English Defence League (a far right group) have included ones alleging that their supporters have been attacked by Muslims, and asking for people to come and support their protest.

Effective use of social media by police:

  1. Monitors the arrangements for a protest in advance. Most marches are organised via a Facebook page, and / or using a Twitter hashtag (a name preceded by a #). These are open and public, and can be an excellent source of intelligence.
  2. Engages with the organisers in advance. Again the open nature of Facebook and Twitter means that the police can talk to people who are interested in the protest, and explain why certain actions and routes may not be possible, and the actions that police will take. Early engagement is probably the area where most can be gained. As with all social media engagement it needs to be a two way conversation, however.
  3. Promotes messages via the hashtag and facebook page on the day of the protest. These can be about the route, police tactics, safety messages, and engaging with protestors in a positive way where they are within the law. Where arrests or other tactics are needed, then police forces should explain what has happened and why, to crush rumours. Which brings me to…
  4. puts the record straight. In the above example of protesters being attacked by Muslims, the police response was straightforward – there have been no attacks, and no one is injured.
  5. creates a reason to be followed. As with all social media, simply regurgitating press releases is dull – a good police presence informs, communicates, discusses and (where appropriate) amuses. Provide an insight into policing of protest, and people will follow you. Don’t be afraid to ask people to follow you either – if you use the hashtag and are providing good information, then people will.

A few things to remember

  • Use the hashtag – people will be following or searching for this, and will automtaically pick up police tweets that use it, whether they follow you or not.
  • Anything you can do they can do better – modern technology is cheap and ubiquitous, and the public are not limited by procurement and ICT department rules. Assume that everything you do is being videoed, edited and uploaded to the internet as you do it, and you will probably be correct.

Photo: Crowd – Image via Flick’r by DavidMartynHunt

This post was previously published on Partrdigej’s blog.

Related posts:

Using Twitter Hashtags for Emergency Management by Scott Mills

Seizing the Virtual Scene by Lauri Stevens

West Midlands (UK) Police: Twitter on the Frontline by Mark Payne

Previous posts from the Social Media Handbook Series:

Part 1: What Social Media networks should I use?

Part 2: How do I get followers / friends ???

Part 3: Policies / Strategies / Guidance??

Part 4: Ten things to have on your page to drive up interest??

Part 5: What to do when things go wrong

Part 6: We don’t do that here

Part 7: Basic Guides – Twitter and Flick’r

Part 8: Connect it all together

Part 9: Talk to local people

Justin Partridge

Justin Partridge is a senior manager for Lincolnshire Police in England. He also works on Local Policing and Partnerships for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Justin Partridge has worked in the public sector since leaving university, and for the police since 2003. After being one of only three non-sworn staff selected for the prestigious Police Strategic Command Course (for those who aspire to the most senior posts in UK policing), he started working on the national Local Policing and Partnerships area with chief officers from across the UK, and with partners from the Home Office, NPIA, APA and elsewhere.

Justin is passionate about making a difference to people, and see social media and new technologies having a major role in this – especially in policing and the wider public sector. He blogs on a variety of issues, predominantly around police and technology, and can be found on Twitter talking about much the same.

Social Media to the Rescue When Disaster Strikes

A tornado rips through your city, destroying hundreds of homes and killing dozens of people.

Power is out. Power lines are down. Roads are blocked and covered with debris, making it next to impossible for emergency services to efficiently respond for search, rescue and recovery efforts.

When the dust has started to settle, how do you as a city get the word out immediately, both to residents and people nationwide who may have family members in your city or want to offer assistance?

You use Social Media.

A day after a tornado barreled through Joplin, M.O., killing more than 100 people, 5 Facebook pages were created about recovery efforts and missing persons and survivors.

The Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery page had 138,281 people “like” the page within 48 hours of the disaster.

Posts include information from Joplin residents about which streets are closed/blocked, donation drops sites, benefit concerts and phone-a-thons, a local restaurant that was serving free lunch, and people nationwide asking how and where they can help; one woman from Louisiana who said she was driving to Joplin with a car full of diapers and formula.

There’s also the Joplin, MO – Missing Persons & Survivors Page, which had more than 4,300 followers by Tuesday morning. People looking for information about their loved ones are posting on that page. They are also updating the page when loved ones are found.

The City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama has also been using Facebook and Twitter as a means of spreading information about tornado relief efforts there. The Tuscaloosa City Facebook page has more than 3,000 followers and more than 4,700 people follow @Tuscaloosacity on Twitter.

The information shared on these sites includes volunteer resource center hours, recycling drop off locations, updates on storm debris removal, school schedules, photographs, facts and figures, including this one on May 14: @tuscaloosacity Of the 7,274 residential structures impacted, 2,375 were destroyed, 2,349 had major damage, 1,025 had minor damage & 1,525 were affected.

It may not even be possible to get on a computer or mobile phone following a disaster in your city to update a Facebook status or Tweet, but those are the first places people seeking details about the disaster will turn to for information.

That’s why it is so critical for cities, police departments and fire services to use social media on a regular basis – before the big one hits. City residents should know ahead of time that if there’s a disaster, they can also turn to Social Media for information from local officials. These are vital free resources that will help you keep the public informed and safe following an emergency management situation.

Social Media is not meant to replace your use of local media to get the word out. It’s an added resource, and in a time of crisis, you need all the help you can get.

Stephanie Slater

Stephanie Slater became the Boynton Beach Police Department’s Public Information Officer in April 2007, following seven years as a newspaper reporter. Slater, a New York native, is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she majored in print journalism.  Slater is the spokeswoman for the Boynton Beach Police Department, serving as the liaison between the officers, the media and the public. She writes the department’s press releases, provides television news interviews, maintains the department’s Web sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace) and oversees the department’s Officer of the Month program. Slater is a member of the National Public Information Officers Association. Follow the Boynton Beach Police on Facebook ( and Twitter (@bbpd).

Connecting with the Community & Media via Social Media

So your agency has decided to participate in social media. You’ve sent out a couple Tweets and Facebook updates but there’s been no response. Is anyone listening?

Many law enforcement agencies use social media as a one-way, notification tool, but there are other agencies that are successfully using social media as a communication tool. The three keys to law enforcement communication through social media are:

  • content
  • consistency
  • and sharing.

Content is the most important factor in your social media efforts.
Content can include traffic alerts, breaking news, event postings, department news, press releases, crisis communication, photos and videos from in the field and responses to questions or comments from the community and the media.

Once you decide what you’ll be saying you need to consider how you’ll say it. As a former reporter, I can tell you that I wanted and needed frequent communication with my sources. Social media has become a place where reporters can get information and ask follow-up questions. Think about it: instead of fielding a dozen phone calls from local reporters, post a link to a media release and answer a couple questions. This saves you and the reporter time and energy. And, it’ll build your credibility with the media and show reporters that you care about getting out timely information and fielding their questions.

Also, don’t be afraid to become more personal with reporters via social media. If they ask a question or post something interesting, don’t hesitate in responding. This gives your agency a human face and makes you much more approachable for questions or media requests.

And while you’re answering questions, make sure to post a few of your own. Setting up polls or posting questions or quizzes will drive discussion and will encourage feedback. Agencies should also be prepared for unwelcome communication. Lynn Hightower, communications director for the Boise (Idaho) Police Department, says being prepared for any type of question or comment is key in your social media planning. “Even if you don’t ask for interaction, citizens will have questions and comments on community issues and they will try to reach out to your agency for answers and feedback,” she said. “To ignore those inquiries would not send a positive message. Agencies using social media should plan ahead for the types of interaction likely to come their way and be prepared.”

Dionne Waugh, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist for the Richmond (Virginia) Police Department, said her agency has gotten a lot of positive reaction to their Daily Good News Item and the Officer, Sergeant and Civilian of the Month videos and notes. “I think this is because they give people insight into the department and the great work of employees they normally wouldn’t hear about,” she said. “On the flip side, we’ve seen a lot of debate when we post mugshots from our prostitution stings. Depending on the operation and manpower, we post both the prostitutes’ and the johns’ photos. I don’t consider this a negative reaction. I think it’s a good thing when we can generate debate between people about the best way to reduce crime.”

Almost as important as content is the frequency which you post to social media. As Waugh said above, Richmond PD gets a lot of great response to their regular features and Boise Police Department has gotten great response from its daily Twitter traffic tip. People come to rely on these daily, weekly or monthly nuggets of information. And, as you can see, they don’t need to be huge, breaking news stories. They can be something as simple as a profile of an officer or a construction update. Each of these regular postings leads to increased agency visibility and better recognition as a trusted source of information.

Also, think about the timing of your messages. If you have a message you really want the community to read, make sure to send them at peak social media traffic times – 7 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. These are the times people are waking up, eating lunch, winding down at work and settling in for the night, and they are much more likely to see your message at the top of their news feeds, instead of wading through hundreds of messages before seeing your hour-old alert.

If you have a really big story you want covered by the media, try thinking of when a reporter is most likely to need a story to cover – at the end of the week. On Thursdays and Fridays reporters are trying to find stories to fill the weekend editions.

Retweeting on Twitter or reposting information from reliable sources will help your cause two-fold – you’ll be seen as a consistent, reliable source of interesting information and the community will start coming to you for updates. You will also be seen by those who originally sent out the information and your information is more likely to be retweeted and reposted by those people. It’s another important tool in the social media toolbox for communication and information sharing.

Image: Flickr by Scoobay

Kelly L. Reynolds is a publications specialist with the Rocky Mountain Information Network, a regional law enforcement intelligence agency based in Phoenix, Arizona. At RMIN she designs and edits the monthly magazine, the RMIN Bulletin, which includes her monthly “Social Media Corner” column. Kelly also works as a social media consultant and has several years of experience as an online/social media reporter for a daily newspaper. @reynoldsreport |

Taking Public Safety to the Street with Twitcam

Simon Shilton @spshilton and Kerry Blakeman @kerryblakeman, March 22, 2011 Twitcam Broadcast

Kerry Blakeman, a Chief Inspector at West Midlands Police in England, had observed his daughter watching a live broadcast of, and sending messages to, a pop star via Twitcam. Then, it occurred to him, why not “give it a go” for policing? “So I thought actually I could do a live broadcast and people don’t have to leave their home. They can ask me questions about policing in Coventry… I wanted to reach out to different members of the community specifically young people who rarely come to one of our meetings,” he said.

Taking the Public Safety Dialog on the Road
Blakeman held his first broadcast from his dining room, but since then has teamed up with Simon Shilton, Operations Commander at West Midlands Fire Department and took the Twitcam broadcasts to the streets of Coventry. CI Blakeman tweeted asking businesses in the area if they’d offer their business wifi service to the effort, “I got five replies saying come on over”.  With the borrowed wifi, a cheap webcam, a tripod and a laptop, they were in business and could set up anywhere.

Since Blakeman’s solo dining room broadcast, they’ve done two more broadcasts together. The first was March 22nd, and can be viewed here. Both men agree the technology is a promising way reach the citizens they serve and address whatever is on the citizens’ minds right where they live. Shilton pointed out it’s a learning process and very much an experiment, “It’s new for us… we’re just learning as we go along”, he said. Blakeman concurs that right now they’re proving the concept and acknowledges there have been challenges, such as being asked a tough question and having to answer it live. He points to the time he was asked to justify use of force during a burglary, “you’ve really got to think on your feet. But when you get done, there’s a real feeling of – I’ve just achieved something. I’ve just represented the service well.”

So far, online viewers have numbered fewer than 30 but have included someone from Dubai and from the RCMP in Canada. Some locals also turn-out to watch in person. In one case, a boy-scout troop was in the audience. Even with a smallish audience they’ve already received intel from “younger people in terms of the kind of issues that we don’t normally get to hear about, like drug abuse and drug dealing,” said Blakeman. It works both ways because the citizens receive some great information as well. Blakeman said he might include a police demo in a future broadcast, perhaps even a taser demonstration.

What is Twitcam?
Twitcam is a Livestream product that’s been around since summer of 2009. To broadcast you need a Twitter account. Sign in with Twitter and click “broadcast”. Once the system accesses your camera and microphone, you’re online. Twitcam provides a tweetable link to send to your Twitter followers. Viewers can send the broadcaster messages via the Twitcam dashboard as illustrated here with a screenshot from Blakeman’s first broadcast.

To assist his colleagues, Blakeman wrote a Twitcam guide with step by step instructions and a synopsis of the questions and comments from citizens. Here is a representative sample:

  • Can you do anything to ENCOURAGE Warwickshire Police to use twitter or twitcam?
  • What is your opinion on the relationship with teenagers and police?
  • Do you think we should have elected Police commissioners?
  • Is the rumour true that all potential recruits to police will have 2 be specials first?
  • Here’s a question! How can the general public help you with policing in Coventry?
  • Burglary was at a high recently what have you been doing to drive it down?
  • Thank you so much for your Twitcam session. It was excellent. It’s a great way for you to talk to the public.
  • Glad it went well. I didn’t tune in – I was watching the football!

His colleagues are noticing

DCC Gordon Scobbie

The UK’s ACPO-appointed (Asso of Chief Police Officers) Social Media lead law officer is Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie. DCC Scobbie said he’s very excited by the potential for Twitcam broadcasts because they get at the heart of both social media and policing, allowing for the delivery of messages to the public in a very direct way. “It also shows Kerry and those supporting him to be human beings with a personality. This builds on the trust, confidence and legitimacy areas which are so important to delivering excellent local policing”, he added. Scobbie also praised Blakeman’s initiative because he “understands the power of using social media whilst being physically present in the community.”

DCC Scobbie plans to implement Twitcam broadcasts at his own service in Tayside, Scotland. But he cautions that not everyone will have the skill to deliver it successfully. “This is true for all social media, the personality and ability to connect with the community and individuals is not something that everyone can do well. Officers and police staff need to have self awareness in this regard,” Scobbie said.

Shilton and Blakeman have plans for many more public broadcasts. Shilton added, “We’re happy that people are logging on and interested in what we have to say. The proof in the pudding will be if we start losing viewers. That’ll be the message to us that we’re not doing things right. As long as we keep growing in numbers, we’ll know that we’re hitting the right mark.”

So if you happen to find yourself in Coventry and see a cop and a firefighter talking to a tiny camera, know that what you don’t see is probably dozens, if not by then 100s of Coventry citizens receiving some fantastic public safety service from a couple of very dedicated and forward-thinking first responders.