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…


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 🙂 ]