Dynamic police units star in #WMPLive – a UK policing first

Don’t miss this live event 7:30pm-8:30pm BST, 2:30-3:30 EST, 11:30-12:30 PST.

FIVE of West Midlands Police’s most dynamic departments will come together during a live online ‘hangout’ in a UK policing first that promises to give viewers a real-time insight into the work of critical force units.

‘WMP Live’ sees officers from traffic, motorway policing, dogs, firearms and air operations hook-up simultaneously through a live internet streaming event on Tuesday (June 25) from 7:30pm-8:30pm BST, 2:30-3:30 EST, 11:30-12:30 PST.

Using smart-phones or tablets they’ll be filmed on duty and use the opportunity to discuss their roles, equipment at their disposal and field questions from people who join the hangout on the force’s YouTube channel (

Twitter users can post their questions in advance, and during the event, using the hashtag #WMPLive.

West Midlands Police Operations Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman, said: “We’re always keen to explore latest technology that affords new ways of reaching out to people across the West Midlands. This promises to be an exciting insight into the work of units that largely go unseen by the public.

“Officers will be filmed whilst on duty so there’s always the potential for viewers to see units being dispatched live to incidents as they happen.

“Of course there’s always the chance of technology or connections letting us down but fingers crossed everything will go to plan.”

The ‘Policing Live’ event will be anchored by former regional news presenter Llewela Bailey who’ll move the spotlight between officers. They include:

• Police dog handler and Crufts award finalist PC Dan Thomas who’ll be joined on camera by his German shepherd and Spaniel sidekicks;
• Traffic cop PC Pete Harris;
• Firearms Sergeant Mark Picken who will discuss the role of WMP’s Armed Response officers and weapons at the unit’s disposal;
• Air Observer PC Matt Smith from the force helicopter’s Birmingham Airport base…with additional footage from the on-board ‘heli-telly’ camera as it patrols the region’s skies;
• Sergeant Dean Caswell talking live during a motorway police tour.
• And Chief Superintendent Chris McKeogh who’ll give an overview of West Midlands Police’s Operations department.

Decentralized Social Communications: Scary Stuff!

Do you keep your social media presence “close to the vest” (e.g. only allowing Public Information Officers the ability to post content) or does your strategy include the ability for all agency officials to reach the community? The latter type of presence involves letting go of control to some extent and this, of course, requires a huge leap of faith from leadership, especially in top-down oriented public safety organizations. However, this type of strategy is currently being done quite successfully.

In the book “Social Media in the Public Sector Field Guide” Ines Mergel and Bill Greeves suggest that a decentralized approach to social media content production is evidence of an evolved use of social media in organizations. They state that agencies that have been using social media for a while often “make social media the responsibility of everyone” and offer the benefits of this decision:

A recent decision at the Department of Defense was to abandon the role of the social media director and instead transfer that position’s responsibilities onto many shoulders in the organization. It is very difficult for a single department or division to speak with the knowledge and authority of all the business units of an organization. “Official” responses often require time and research. They frequently result in formal answers that do not fit the casual tone inherent in social media. By formally distributing the tasks and response functions to those who have the knowledge required to have meaningful online conversations on social media channels, you can decrease maintenance costs, increase trust in those exchanges and reduce the number of missteps or rounds of interaction it takes before citizens get the “right” response from your agency. (pages 110-112)

Jim Garrow, who blogs at “The Face of the Matter” makes a similar case: “My point, and it naturally follows from last week’s post on having others write for your agency, is that we [PIOs] need to get the hell out of the way. Let your agency shine through every day. Give your experts the podium they deserve. Build them a following (or let them build a following).”

The Toronto Police Department provides an example of complete decentralization of social media content. As can be seen in the image below their agency’s website homepage has all the “big 3″ social media buttons: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These buttons take the user to their official account, most likely administered by a Public Information Officer.

Choose, however, the “Connect with us” tab right below it, and their world opens up. I counted 119 different social media accounts for this organization–119! What are all these people talking about? Ideally, the content they are posting should be directly related to their position or function in the organization, and with each of the samples I chose at random, that proved to be the case. Take for instance Sgt Jack West (@SgtJackWest)—who has the title of “Traffic Enforcement.” No shocker, he talks a lot about traffic and how people can stay safe–e.g “Don’t text and drive” etc.

Patricia Fleischmann or @caringcop on Twitter, has the title of “Vulnerable Persons Coordinator.” What does she post about? How elderly and other people who might be vulnerable to crime and natural disasters can be better prepared. She also Tweets quite a lot about people that are helping each other, organizations folks can turn to for assistance, and information from community meetings she attends. She has a healthy following of 762 people.

I could go on for while with examples, but feel free to explore of these great social feeds yourself by clicking here. So, how do they keep everyone in their “lane?” How do they keep all of these people from embarrassing the organization and posting inappropriate content? Yikes–this is scary territory!

I have been told by some of these Toronto Tweeters, that they do the following:

Before they get their social account, they are required to attend a 3-day intensive social media training class that provides them with not only information about how and why to use social networks, but also how NOT to use them. This would include Department and City posting policies.

Each of the accounts are clearly marked with the fact that the person works for the Toronto Police Department, however, they do often choose to use their own picture instead of the PD’s logo–giving the account a personal touch, which I think is critical for community outreach and engagement (it says to the public–we are people to).

Each account states that they do not monitor the account 24/7, and that if anyone needs emergency assistance they should dial 911. (See below–each person’s account information looks almost identical.)
Each Twitter profile links back to the official website.

This obviously is not a willy nilly hey, all-you-guys-go-Tweet-something strategy. Their strategy is obvious, their goals are clear; and it seems to me they are meeting the objectives of reaching out and connecting with the public on platforms that the public uses everyday.

See, it’s not so scary after all!

This post was previously published at iDisaster 2.0.

Kim Stephens is an independent emergency management consultant and the lead blogger of iDisaster 2.0 where she writes about the benefits as well as the challenges the emergency management community and other public sector entities might face when employing new information communications technologies before, during and after a crisis. She has over a decade of experience in the field of emergency management. Her experience has spanned federal, local and non-governmental organizations: from the US Environmental Protection Agency, to the Tennessee Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management, and the American Red Cross. She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Texas A&M University.

Social media is critical to police IT systems dealing with newsworthy issues

Hold the front page

Crime has always been front page news.

Always sold newspapers.

The advent of TV – remember the real time coverage of OJ Simpson’s arrest – accelerated the speed with which news spread:

And social media has ensured that bad news goes global in minutes – as anyone following the Oscar Pistorius case can testify.

Let social media bear the weight

The always-on, global thirst for bad news can cause problems for police forces who need to appeal for information in high profile cases.

A simple post for information on a force website can spread virally within minutes and become global news with the result that the website crashes under the weight of public interest.

An example was the murder of Joanna Yeates over the Christmas period in 2010.

Even though Avon & Somerset Police rented additional infrastructure, the website crashed at peak times as information was requested about her whereabouts.

The force opted to use a set of social media networks to publish important information.

YouTube was used as the network to distribute CCTV footage with requests for information.

Information about the case was also published on Twitter and Facebook.

All these global social media networks have massive infrastructures which can better balance localised high loads.

Social media therefore becomes an important communications tool for small forces with high-newsworthy stories.

But it is also relevant for large-scale emergencies.

Identifying rioters

During and after the 2011 riots in London, the Metropolitan police used Flickr to publish images of suspects.

With announcements on Twitter, the photos were extremely popular.

The Met uploaded a first batch of images on August 9, 2012 at 12 noon.

By midnight the same day, they had been viewed more than 4 million times.

Indeed, this level of interest even caused Flickr some problems.

The Met’s website traffic increased dramatically during and just after the riots.

Hosting images on a separate server through Flickr helped ensure their site was not overloaded and could run at optimal levels, ensuring the public could still access information on how the police were dealing the riots and public safety information about what they should do.

The advent of social media means that police can request and broadcast information much more quickly with a considerably greater reach without additional and expensive investment in technology.

Is there something in the water in Florida?

Or are the cops just cooler there? JK!

Just got word from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (one of my favorite Social Media savvy agencies) about their holiday video. They just released it this week and already have tens of thousands of views.

Of course, it was Tampa Police who blew us away with their lip-sync of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” video. To follow that video they produced their own holiday vid: “Deck the Malls” a few weeks back.

All of these videos are outstanding ways to reach new audiences with a public safety message. Which leads me to wonder, what’s going on in Florida? Am I missing other great videos from law enforcement agencies elsewhere? I know several agencies in California, Texas and Massachusetts at a minimum who could be giving these law officers some friendly competition. Hmmm, maybe I need to add a new category to the ConnectedCOPS Awards. Something like “Best Public Safety Music Video”.

Happy holidays everyone. Thank you CCSO and TPD and law officers everywhere for your creativity and dedication.

New Social Media Duties for Dallas Police Officer

On February 16, 2011 I was given a new assignment in the Dallas police department’s media relations office as the social media officer. Little did I know what was in store for me! The department was joining the 21st century and my job was to help get us there. Our social media sites are now allowing us to reach thousands of Dallas residents and to get information rapidly out to and receive feedback and assistance from our many followers.

The Dallas police department has twelve social media sites that I oversee: three Twitter accounts, eight Facebook accounts, a YouTube account, and a Nixle account. The department has seven patrol substations and because of our size, each substation has its own Facebook account as well. Each station also has an officer who periodically posts to and monitors those accounts. Although those accounts are monitored by another officer, I have the responsibility for conducting on-going checks on them.

Once I got settled into my new office, I immediately went to work on updating these accounts. Our Facebook, Nixle, and one of the Twitters accounts are public sites that are open to the community. I am continuously posting information on our Facebook page which is in turn linked to our public Twitter account. This allows me to get information out on both simultaneously. Some examples of items that get posted on our page include: surveillance videos of cases where our homicide or robbery units are asking for the public’s help, department-sponsored events and fundraisers, award announcements, and press releases. I use our “Notes” page to post answers to questions most commonly asked, from “How to Commend an Officer” to “Obtaining Offense and Accident Reports.” Also I created a takedown policy for inappropriate posts to our Facebook accounts and placed it on our information page. This informs the community about what types of comment and photos will not be permitted on our page. One of our Twitter accounts is for departmental use only. This page was set up so that I could get departmental information out to police personnel rapidly and efficiently. Items usually sent out on this account range from retirement and award announcements, fundraisers, and information regarding sick or injured officers.

As I was getting our social media sites up-to-date, I also had to take on the many responsibilities of our other public information officers. This includes responding to media requests for information, photo assignments, press releases, and media interviews.

This first month has been a whirlwind and I have learned many things. I love challenges and am looking forward to helping the department move forward with our many social media projects.

Interact with Dallas Police:

Dallas Police YouTube

Dallas Police on Facebook



Southeast Division Facebook Page

South Central Division Facebook Page

Northeast Division Facebook Page

Northwest Division Facebook Page

Southwest Division Facebook Page

Central Division Facebook Page

North Central Division Facebook Page

Melinda Gutierrez

Senior Corporal Melinda Gutierrez has been with the Dallas Police Department for twelve years. Corporal Gutierrez spent time at the Northeast Patrol Division as a patrol officer and also as a Neighborhood Police Officer from March 1999 to July 2008. After leaving the Northeast Patrol Division, she was transferred to Jack Evans building which is the main headquarters for the Dallas Police Department. Corporal Gutierrez was assigned to the Fleet Unit in August of 2008 in which she along with other another officer oversaw the entire fleet of police vehicles. In February of 2011, Corporal Gutierrez was given the task of becoming the department’s Social Media Officer.

Toronto Crime Stoppers Gets 10,300 Anonymous Tips for 25th Birthday

Relationship building with Social Media makes it happen

Toronto Crime Stoppers received a record number of anonymous tips in 2009 to help the police prevent and solve crimes. In 2007 the average number of tips per month was 350, in 2009 it was close to 1,000 per month. Social media using a relationships and technology approach is one major reason behind the increased success. This article will explain some of the steps taken by a collaboration of community and police through both traditional and social media that led to the increased number of tips.

A Celebration

At a ceremony at Toronto Police Headquarters in January, 2010 at the launch of “International Crime Stoppers Month” an unlikely group of people were on hand, in front of a throng of major media cameras and local, national and international newspaper writers. Toronto Police Chief William Blair was present as the guest of honour.

Toronto Police Services Board member and local city councillor Adam Vaughan was on the podium representing Toronto’s Tweeting Mayor David Miller, as was the President of Crime Stoppers International Mr. Gary Murphy. The Creative Director of national advertising firm DDB Canada Mr. Andrew Simon was next to these dignitaries, set to launch the 2010 “Cash For Guns” campaign with a series of new posters, bus stop ads and billboard ads that equalled a $100,000 in kind donation to Toronto Crime Stoppers.

Perhaps the most unlikely, and most uncomfortable person on the podium was 20 year old Jason Tojeiro, the Toronto BMX rider and youth mentor, honoured in Australia in 2009 as Crime Stoppers International Student of the Year .

I have documented Jason’s work mentoring the youth of Rexdale’s Tandridge Crescent in 2009 in social media on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The story leading up to this special day announcing a record number of anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers to help the police prevent or solve a crime is a long and winding road with many ups and downs along the way.

The Backstory

One part of the success story of a record # of anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers started at a Young President’s Organization (YPO) Christmas Party in December of 2007 that featured honoured guests, NHL Hockey greats Ron Ellis and Marcel Dionne, as well as Toronto philanthropist, radio broadcaster and political elite John Tory. Part of the festivities that day included the construction of a freestyle BMX Bike Park by the YPO membership and their families – some 40 CEO’s of companies, all under 40yrs of age. The whole idea had been inspired by a presentation I was honoured to have been invited to do on Social Media in Law Enforcement to YPO delegates in the summer of 2007. Court (and wife Kirsten) Carruthers (Acklands-Grainger International CEO) had left that presentation sharing with me a passion for engagement of youth and police through exciting grass roots community activities for youth like BMX and graffiti.

Some of the most important guests on the day of the BMX Park construction were the graffiti artists doing a demonstration of their talents decorating the ramps with community building art work. One of those artists was the 2008 Crime Stoppers International Student of the Year – graffiti artist Kedre ‘Bubblz’ Browne. He was joined by his friend Jessey ‘Phade’ Pacho, who also has been honoured as an international community builder through his community work with graffiti by Communities Advancing Valued Environments (CAVE).

The success of this BMX Bike Park construction and graffiti community building initiative was quickly spread to a Toronto Community Housing Corporation parking lot at 75 Tandridge Crescent, Toronto, Ontario Canada thanks to the community collaboration between the Toronto Police Service, Barry Thomas from Toronto Community Housing, and Allan Crawford of the city of Toronto Parks Forestry and Recreation Department.

Lost in the Headlines

Fast forward to the announcement of a record number of tips received by Toronto Crime Stoppers at the press conference in January, 2010, you might be surprised to learn that the story in the main stream media the next day was not the record number of tips, but that of a murder victim’s family appealing for tips.

A citizen journalist had seen the Facebook Event inviting the community to attend the launch of Crime Stoppers Month celebrating the record number of tips and launching the 2010 Cash For Guns campaign , and took it upon herself to invite the media to the same time and place to speak to a family appealing for information on the identity of the killer in their time of grief for their loved one Kenneth Mark, who had been gunned down innocently as he got a slice of pizza in The Junction area of Toronto. Mr Mark was a respected community leader who worked tirelessly to keep youth out of gangs. He was Toronto’s 62nd and last murder of 2009. This story, rightfully so, was timely, and needed the attention of the mainstream media to assist the police in solving this terrible murder. But the message to the sustainable success of the Crime Stoppers program in preventing so many similar incidents over the past 25 years was lost for that day… but not in the long run.. thanks to the posting of several videos to Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

The truth behind the success of the program is that Crime Stoppers is a sustainable, local, provincial, national and international program, with close to 1,300 programs worldwide, all community operated in partnership with their local police agencies and the media. The real reason behind Toronto’s increase in tips from 350/month to close to 1000/month since 2007, and the incredible success of the program is ‘youth engagement’, and the use of SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook, YouTube , Twitter and

Three Missing Teens

It started in 2007 with 3 missing Toronto teens, Eve Ho, Kevin Lim and Jackie Li being posted to Youtube, followed shortly thereafter by a homicide investigation for slain teen Omar Wellington in Flemington Park area of Toronto. Since, every type of crime from sexual assaults, to wanted Hells Angels gang members, armed robberies and even theft from autos has been posted into social media. The biggest key has been my steadfast belief in the philosophy of ‘let the people speak’ in social media. There has been a lot of chatter online about the cases, and the positive youth work, which has generated an increased education on how the anonymous tips work.

As alluded to above, it wasn’t just appeals for unsolved crimes that were being posted to social media. Positive youth engagement through graffiti art projects and two freestyle BMX parks, Toronto Marlies hockey games and community skating events, Caribana and Gay Pride Parades (the “Your Tip Is Safe With Us” condom campaign) , the Youth in Policing program (YiPi) as well as daily school presentations were all celebrated in social media. Students were given lessons on privacy, identity theft prevention and responsible posting in the Crime Stoppers presentations, and the fan based grew bigger each and every day.

The Future

The key to making this success continue is the continuation of positive community engagement between the police and the community, and the continued increased use of social media. I’m a firm believer that we must make what has been accomplished here with Crime Stoppers sustainable for police services worldwide.

The Toronto Crime Stoppers program is in good hands in 2010, under the new direction of Coordinator Detective Darlene Ross, and Community Youth Officer Constable Martin Douglas. The plan is to continue with youth engagement projects, and education on the power of prevention of Crime Stoppers programs worldwide. Constable Douglas is very involved in an after school dance program called “Krumping Out Crime”, and is well on his way to establishing a similar following of youth on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter through his positive relationships with “Krumping” youth.

A record number of tips have come into the program in 2009. Over 10,300 tips to be exact. The program has come a long way since it was started in Toronto in 1984 by now retired Staff Superintendent Gary Grant. He took the initiative 25 years ago to form a community partnership driven by the community to help the police. He will tell you that it never was an easy road to forge with the police. The community was always on board and ready to help, but he had to overcome obstacles with the police partnership. Grant says those obstacles are still being overcome today, but it is hard to tell when Police Chief Blair tells the assembled media that his police service greatly appreciates all the community work that the Crime Stoppers community volunteers do to raise the money to pay up to $2000.00 in cash rewards for each of those over 10,000 tips.

We must teach other community members and law enforcement officers to use the power of social media. The police and the community do great work, but a lot of it does not get celebrated or ‘engaged’. We need to think of ‘engagement’ and not simply ‘marketing’ of the community safety message. It is as simple and inexpensive as a $150 digital camera and an investment daily of thirty minutes of time on social media sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. The road to success is relatively inexpensive. Saving even one life is worth every penny.

( Talk: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) Type: or TEXT TOR plus your message to CRIMES (274637) . .. see how anonymous text tips works worldwide here, which has resulted in increased awareness of the cases themselves and how Crime Stoppers works. Recently, the ability to leave a tip directly from Facebook has been added to the pages of Toronto Crime Stoppers, Toronto Police Service and Crime Stoppers International, as well as the individual profiles of myself and Constable Martin Douglas. The best is yet to come.

To view videos and posts related to this article click on the following links:

Constable Scott Mills has begun a new position as the Toronto Police Service Social Media Relations Officer on April 1, 2010. He can be contacted at scott.mills[at]

When cops are attacked with social media: eight lessons learned at G20

With the G20 in the city, eyes around the globe were on Toronto over the past week and just about everybody involved locally or from afar has something to say, and they did and continue to do so over Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The proliferation of social media platforms has give people greater ability to connect with others and publish their own content. And true to form, when it comes to social media in law enforcement, the SMILE pioneers at Toronto Police Service, are taking more than a few arrows in the back.

For the TPS, it didn’t start with G20.

Wind the clock back to May when 18 y.o. Junior Alexander Manon died while being pursued by police. The cops are unable to comment by law due to an independent investigation, but thousands of members of the court of public opinion say the cops killed him. The matter is under investigation by the civilian “Special Investigations Unit” (SIU). Meanwhile, several Facebook groups have surfaced as part of a campaign to blast the TPS, one with close to 21,000 members. It’s calling for rallies and for members to sign a petition.

The Toronto Police Association has called upon the SIU to release the findings of its investigation. The SIU has reportedly had the autopsy results for weeks. But they’re not acting and the TPS can’t do anything but take a very public beating in social media. The lives of the officers who work in the Division involved have literally been threatened and yet all they can do is wait for official results of the SIU investigation. A review of the members of the anti-police group on Facebook reveals that many TPS officers have joined the group, presumably to keep informed of the sentiments of the community.

Toronto Police’s Social Media Officer Scott Mills was encouraged by his commanders to post a comment indicating how to report to the police any information regarding the event. Mills has spent years building relationships through social media with the same citizens who are now joining forces against the TPS. Prior to becoming the force’s social media officer in April, he was a gang and youth officer and was highly and unusually effective at using social media tools to build relationships

Whether Mills’ hard work has truly vaporized is unlikely. Given that he built relationships, some very deep, with some of the same people who are now attacking TPS, he has that to call upon. It will be a long haul, “but we’ll do it, it’s going to take a lot of hard work”, said Mills.

The G20 is the same, but Different

Ahead of the G20 events, the TPS provided a “social media guide” and provided officers to monitor and engage in social media as part of its G20 strategy. Throughout the preceding week and over the weekend of the summit, TPS monitored and mined social media not only to engage with protesters and observers, but also to gain intelligence as to what those with criminal intent were up to. Here again, social media was used against the Toronto Police Service. But this time TPS can, and IS, using social media to engage and interact and in some cases, solidify support.

They [peaceful protestors] don’t understand for example, why they were boxed in by police during the event at Queen and Spadina. We had good reason to do that, because the same Black Bloc tactics that led to police cars burned and businesses vandalized the day before were being seen by officers and they decided to be safe rather than sorry.
~Constable Scott Mills

It will be a long time, if ever, anyone who was there or who followed it from miles away will forget the stories and the images from June 26th and 27th. It was a turbulent, violent and riotous weekend for the city of Toronto. TPS arrested approximately 900 people. A few of those arrested were journalists and many were peaceful protestors, a fact TPS acknowledges. “They don’t understand for example, why they were boxed in by police during the event at Queen and Spadina. We had good reason to do that, because the same Black Bloc tactics that led to police cars burned and businesses vandalized the day before were being seen by officers and they decided to be safe rather than sorry”, said Mills. To be sure, violent protesters were plentiful as well, such as those who identify with the beliefs of the Black Bloc ideology..

Several police cruisers were burned, in some case other cruisers’ windshields bashed in by protesters while the driver was still inside.

AS far as social media goes, TPS paid attention most particularly to Twitter. Mills said “my biggest challenge was volume” adding that he read and responded to upwards of 200 messages a day on Twitter alone, and wasn’t watching Facebook where copious negative (as well as positive) comments were coming in. He said, “it finally got to the point where members of the public asked us to remove from Facebook some of the bad comments from the anarchists”. Mills who staunchly believes in “letting the people speak” took the comments down but said “we split the page, so they’re still posting criticism but our message isn’t getting lost either”.

Over the weekend, TPS shut down its Facebook wall while they dealt with Twitter activity, “We never want to shut down the wall but we had to disengage it until we could monitor it 24/7 again. There will certainly be some best practices that come out of this” said Mills.

Tim and Scott are TPS social media trail blazers. Because of their great work I hope to expand our work with social media.
~Dep Chief Peter Sloly

Positive comments in support of TPS are equally plentiful. When TPS asked witnesses to send them information and images of Black Bloc activity, they received so much, Mills had to stop his media activity to spend a couple hours cleaning out his email inbox. On Tuesday (June 29th), at the request of Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, TPS made it easy for citizens to file a complaint against an officer by tweeting a link to the Office of Independent Police Review.

Mills said he and the other media officers at TPS are handling the situation by “continuing to put out the truth and answer as many questions as we can.” And it’s working, sometimes just one person at a time as with this exchange between the Chief and an Ontario man. But for the most part, it’s reinforcement of the right message and reassuring supporters that your agency is on top of its game. Overall, when reasonable citizens see the big picture of what went down and TPS handling of it and really study the communication online, TPS will gain favorable support. Deputy Chief Sloly is grateful the TPS had the services of Constable Scott Mills and Sergeant Tim Burrows as well as others. “Tim and Scott are TPS social media trail blazers. Because of their great work I hope to expand our work with social media.”

#G20 is over but the protests keep going

The members of the G20 have long since returned home and yet many angry people remained. Fifteen hundred of them gathered outside Toronto Police Headquarters on College Street on Monday night (June 28th). Mills was among them, tweeting. “When they found out who I was, they wouldn’t shake my hand… It was a peaceful protest but very hostile toward police.” And he took photos, which are now on the TPS Facebook page.

Some protesters are calling on Police Chief Blair to resign. But Blair defends the actions of his officers and credits social media for TPS’ intelligence gathering, as quoted in the Toronto Sun, “They got their picture taken, a lot,” he added. “They used Twitter and other social media to communicate their intent, we have those communications. So they are going to be held accountable for their actions.”

We can talk about idealism in social media all we want but the fact is that in police work there is danger and people can get hurt in real life. That will lead to very strong feelings and commentary whether it’s a protest in the streets or on Facebook.
~Lon Cohen

Lessons Learned

Social media (in its current state) is so new, everyone using it is learning along the way. It’s no different for cops. As Huffington Post and writer Lon Cohen commented when I asked him about TPS’ work in social media, law enforcement is also learning about how to deal with people through the social web. He added “We can talk about idealism in social media all we want but the fact is that in police work there is danger and people can get hurt in real life. That will lead to very strong feelings and commentary whether it’s a protest in the streets or on Facebook.”

  1. Social Media isn’t going away. And when it’s used to spread negative commentary about your agency, be ready. The best time to build your support system is before you need it. The worst strategy is not to have one.
  2. Dealing with crisis communications needs to be part of your social media strategy. TPS could have been even better prepared in the online world, but the fact that they produced a social media guide ahead of time and actively monitored social networks with a strategy in place, was remarkable. Ninety percent of what could happen can be predicted and planned for.
  3. Social Media is a highly valuable intelligence-gathering tool. As acknowledged by Chief Blair, the communications are valuable and discoverable and highly relevant to their ongoing investigations.
  4. A crisis is optimum opportunity for reputation management. “When the dust settles” TPS stands to gain ground with the citizens of Toronto for being responsive and engaging and abundantly sharing information.
  5. Don’t underestimate staffing requirements. You’ve heard it before, the tools are free but knowing how to use them and paying the people who do, costs money. Sometimes a significant amount.
  6. Engagement is king. TPS was ready to communicate and did so with anyone and everyone who engaged them. If instead, they used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the rest only to distribute and not receive, they would have missed a huge opportunity.
  7. Use social media for internal communication. If rank and file Toronto police officers also followed the TPS social media messages, TPS feels they would also benefited from receiving the info being put out to the public.
  8. Set expectations for officers re: photographs. Some disagreements arose when officers’ photos were taken even when the photographers were just tourists or onlookers. Not all officers at G20 understood that when in a public place, people taking their photographs for non-intelligence gathering reasons is o.k.

For the TPS The G20 is not over

The officers I’ve had contact with are shell-shocked, but they press on. The protests continue and the TPS continues to perform its duties and continues to try to improve communication with the citizenry.