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A first in the UK for West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police made Press Conference history in the United Kingdom today LIVE at YouTube. For the UK, it’s the first time a police force has streamed a live press conference seeking a suspect or witness in an ongoing investigation.

In a Google world where fast is better than slow (on the web or in catching a murder), anyone can become their own media company.

According to YouTube and Magid and Associates, 25-45% of all videos viewed at YouTube are on mobile. So, creating a press conference that streams straight to someone’s pocket is sensible.

However, 67% of those mobiles views are at home (in the lounge or the bedroom) as a second screen. That means, a person is sitting in the same room as a switched on TV, but uses the mobile too.

What is happening at YouTube on their lap will not reach TV until a few hours or even half a day later.

This screen capture shows how Google favours a LIVE Video and rewards that in Search. We also have a few new features with Google+ Hangouts like a LIVE Rewind button that gives the audience complete control.

So, if you arrive at the LIVE feeds a few minutes late, one click restarts the broadcast (similar to sky or cable TV). Another click and you are LIVE again. As you drag the slider, mini thumbnails appear giving you a visual clue on what you have missed (TV does not do this).

We can also see YouTube generates a snapshot of the broadcast and places that at the YouTube LIVE page giving you an instant glimpse in the program.

Finally, this is free. Anyone can do this. Feel free to ask me how to get started.

In Canada, Constable Scott Mills of the Toronto Police Service uses backpack journalism to stream similar press conferences and reports from the street. We also have Kerry Blakeman from +West Midlands Police already using LIVE at YouTube with more planned broadcasts this month.

Constable Mills has lead the effort at Toronto Police to broadcast live from the scene of a homicide, and when Dean Wichar was arrested for the John Raposa murder, he broadcast from the lobby of Toronto’s 51 Division in the evening with an Internet signal tethered from a print media reporter’s iPhone.

Let me leave you with the Press Conference as it happened and the accompanying CCTV video of a man and a vehicle.

Editor’s Note: The officer in the following videos is Superintendent Mark Payne of the West Midlands Police. He has keynoted at The SMILE Conference and has written several articles on this blog.

Mike Downes – Teacher, Broadcaster, Google+ Hangout Specialist
After spending fifteen years as a school teacher, Mike moved to local media by starting whatsinKenilworth.com in April 2010. After getting noticed by mainstream media (by blogging about Library closures and local Policing), Google+ opened in June 2011 allowing a whole new experience. Mike quickly saw Hangouts as a realtime video tool that connected people. Anoek Eckhardt, Communications and Public Affairs Manager at Google said: “Mike is a great ambassador for Google+. His interaction with thousands of people from across the world to share knowledge, advice and learn together highlights the collaborative power of Google+.

What do the public like about police Facebook pages?

If you’re interested in British Police use of social media, you should definitely follow Mike Downes (@mikedownesmedia) who produces an incredibly useful monthly statistical update on UK police social media accounts.

In his latest post, Mike has focused on the sharp increase in the number of people “Liking” police Facebook posts – where 16 forces had month-on-month growth of over 20%.

I thought I’d do a little analysis and look at exactly what sort of police posts people like.




What do the public like on police Facebook pages

Mike found that three police forces had the highest rate of increase in Facebook “likes” compared to the previous month: Hampshire, Greater Manchester and Strathclyde. I looked at the Facebook pages for these three forces and identified the five most popular posts from each in the month under review. Where more than one post covered the same subject, I aggregated the number of likes and treated them as one post.



Hampshire Fb


In Hampshire (@hantspolice), the post that provoked the most public response was a photo of a police car parked in a disabled bay at MacDonalds which the Constabulary had to explain occurred when an officer went to investigate an offence, not to get a Big Mac and fries.

Tragically, the second most popular post related to an officer who had died on duty in a Road Traffic Accident.

Two of the three other most popular posts related to missing people who had been found and one was a plea for information relating to an assault on a pensioner.

Greater Manchester




In Greater Manchester (@gmpolice), by far the most popular post had photos of a new police dog’s first day at work.

Interestingly, the second most popular post was also about dogs – in this case, a story about local dog thefts.

As in Hampshire, two of the top five posts related to missing persons with the other a plea for information on the anniversary of an unsolved murder case.

Strathclyde Police

Once we look at the Strathclyde data (now @policescotland), some themes start emerging:


Strathclyde Fb


Yet again,we have one post relating to dogs and one to a missing person. The second most popular post related to the amalgamation of all seven Scottish police forces into Police Scotland and the other two were concerned with police successes: the conviction and sentence of murderers and the arrest of sex offenders.


So, what have we learnt from this not-so-scientific mini analysis?

The public seem to respond to some key categories of Facebook post:

  • Information pleas and good news about (particularly vulnerable) missing persons – 5 out of these 15 posts.
  • Posts relating to animals (in this case all dogs) – 3 out of 15.
  • Controversy (amalgamation of Scottish forces, parking in disabled bay) – 2 out of 15.
  • Successes – criminals arrested or sentenced, particularly in high profile cases – 2 out of 15.

It is no surprise that UK police forces are such advocates of social media.

Facebook allows them to engage with the public with ease, show a very wide range of their work and quickly spread request for information.

It’s also a great medium for celebrating success.


What does your force usually post on Facebook?

You might also like BrightPlanet’s infographic analysing the 1St Global Police Tweetathon which shows the favourite topics for police services to tweet about.

Please contribute via the comments section below.



Focus on how to be social, not how to do social

Police departments of old always operated by one simple motto…”nothing to see here, move along.” In the age of social it’s hard to change that mentality, especially if you we’re raised with the above motto. Police held their information close to the vest and hardly communicated at all with the public. When you used to see several police cars on a street in the middle of the night citizens were left wondering, “what’s going on.”

I remember a day not so long ago when you said nothing, “don’t talk to the press,” “I can’t comment, please speak with the PIO,” “an official statement is forthcoming.”

Now news doesn’t break, it tweets. Information moves so fast, that if you wait for an official press release, the information is old news.

So when you think about social media strategies, it boils down to one simple trick, Be Social. Here is my simple strategy for police departments and the use of social media.

1. Listen

After you accept that social media has a role to play in your departments communication, the majority don’t yet know how best to use them. This is why it is important to listen first. I remember when I started Twitter for my department, all I did was scour social media sites listening to what people were saying. What they were saying about my city, my department, and what they were doing in the community.

Social media is an amazing source of insight, offering unfiltered evidence of people’s behaviors and attitudes. Listening to what they are saying online allows you to get a glimpse of what is going on in your community. Listening also helps us decide what kind of information will be received by your followers and what content we can use to engage the public. For example, by monitoring the community we were able to create a better traffic awareness plan for traffic safety and enforcement.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Once you are engaged with your community the listening doesn’t stop, but becomes an ongoing process. People’s conversations continues during and after we act, we have to keep asking questions to understand the people’s needs and wants.

Active listening is required- giving feedback is important to make clear that we are really listening. It sends a powerful message: ‘you are important, and we are listening.’

2. Participate

Talk to people. The driving force behind social media is ordinary people sharing their experiences online with a broad community. This includes how they have been touched by your “brand,” both in a positive and negative light. It is important for law enforcement to tell their own story, rather than letting our customers, or detractors, including the media, tell it for us.

Social media requires conversation, unlike the old press release days were we guarded our information and put out only what we thought was relevant content. Departments must foster mutually beneficial dialogue and information exchange. Unlike standard operating procedure, we use our community to help do our jobs. People call the police and we respond. People tell us there is a problem and we respond. An informant tells us there is illegal activity and we respond. Doesn’t sound much different, does it. We must foster our relationships with the social media community to respond to their needs. We must create that dialogue with our online community which involves sharing, attention, interest, understanding, and activity.

Once we have fostered that relationship, obtained followers and likes, etc. we must then give them something to talk about. Your followers are interested and want to know what’s going on. People want to see the good things your department is doing in the community. What I found from my listening efforts is that people want to see all the good things your department is doing. Some of our best responses from our community have been showing the better side of police work, the officer retiring after 30 years. The
youth cadet program that wins an award, the citizen going on her first ride along at 86 years old.

Television media is filled with horror and bad things people go through, even department
or officer controversy, what your people want, and will talk about, is how their
department is doing great things in the community.

Being a police department is not a brand that people are naturally going to talk about or
engage with, but by tapping into these ‘relevance by association’ topics as I’ve touched
on above, will get people talking about what they are passionate about, seeing their
community grow from your departments involvement in it. The key is to generate
content or a story that both it, and the community can participate in together.

3. Monitor and Optimize (Return on Investment)

Measuring behavior within social media for law enforcement is different from traditional businesses because there are so many more actions that are measurable and do not rely on sales. Measurements such as posts, comments, links, votes, views, likes, retweets, are just a few which are comparable to traditional media sources.

Constant, on going measurement is vital. This can be used to measure the success of content but also to continuously develop conversations and drive your ‘brand.”

Some possible metrics for measuring social media for public safety are as follows:

Behavioral metrics are used to gauge the level of attention or engagement your activity Is generating, for example the volume of conversations or mentions. Share of conversation, meaning what proportion of conversations are about your department.

Awareness, perception, and sentiment metrics are used to see how much time people are spending on your sites, and what impact traditional media is having on social behavior online.

Attitudinal or sentiment metrics can be used to gauge your activity’s emotional responses or impact on attitudes to your brand.

Ecosystem metrics can be used to get a sense of the wider impact of your activity, for example what is the origin of the conversation? Which local followers, sources, and sites are influential? The number and activity of fans and followers can also be measured.

Final Thoughts

The use of social media should not be used like conventional media. Social networks, networks of people, are not mass media channels.

Social media is not a cure. It is a tool for public safety to use along with other means of communication and engagement.

Social media grew from the ground up, by the people, and for the people. It cannot be run from the top down.

Finally, social media is not a campaign, it’s an ongoing commitment to talk with the people in your community, as I said at the beginning it’s all about being social, talking, something we do every day. But remember, once you are out there, you have to stay out there.

Officer Chris Rasmussen has been in Law Enforcement for 22 years having served with the San Francisco Police and the Redwood City Police Department. Officer Rasmussen was one of the founding members of the Redwood City Police Social Media Team. He has also worked with the City of Redwood City on developing the Citywide social media policy. Officer Rasmussen was one of the founding members and coordinator of the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (#BALESMG). Chris has 20 years of experience as a Law Enforcement Trainer in a variety of fields including Use of Force, defensive tactics, tactical baton, TASER, community policing, and social media. Chris is also a member of the police honor guard, patrol rifle team, and is part of the Technology Committee for the department.

Ganging up on social media

Criminals and law enforcement officials both make use of new technologies and social media in particular to outwit each other.

This week’s post focuses on how gangs use social media and how police respond.

Gangs use social media to brag

Gang members use the whole range of social media platforms to spread inflammatory messages and encourage rival gangs to respond.

At a recent ABC News sponsored gang summit in Chicago attended by current and former gang members, several participants said that social media played a significant role in fuelling gang rivalry:

“If I make a video about somebody else, everybody is going to watch,” he said. “I get on Facebook, put up a status, somebody is somebody’s friend. If I get on Twitter, I make a tweet, somebody is going to whisper to that person, ‘did you seen what happened?’ I get on Instagram, take a picture of another person in the hood…”

Young gang members can’t afford to make expensive music videos but they can use their phone camera to record a video and post it on YouTube. There are scores of examples of British gang members on YouTube, typically brandishing guns, smoking drugs and rapping about what they’re going to do to their rivals.

A recent report by the US-based National Gang Crime Research Centre details the way in which street gangs carry out “electronic gang warfare” using Facebook.

Gangs exploit Facebook’s laissez-faire approach to hosting gangs sites on their platform. Most gangs register their account as a “community organisation” and make no attempt to play down or disguise their activities.





Gangs also use social media to recruit and intimidate

Gangs’ use of social media to brag and taunt other gangs is well known and has been established for years. However, more recently some gangs have also been using social media, particularly Facebook, to find out where young people who are skipping school are hanging out.

The gangs then show up at these locations and try to recruit the young people into their gang.

Police use social media to identify gang members

Although many police officers are disenchanted, to say the least, at the ease with which gang members are allowed to post violent content online, most admit that there is a positive spin-off and that they routinely trawl social media sites for a range of gang-related intelligence.

The New York Police Department has started routinely searching for suspects’ photos on Facebook before running them through their new Facial Recognition Unit.

Here’s a typical example of the technology in use:

A young woman reported that her jewellery was stolen from her in the street by an acquaintance’s boyfriend. She did not know the robber’s name, but she did know that he was bound to be in photos on his girlfriend’s Facebook page.

The police went online and then scanned the photo through the Facial Recognition software and established his identity – making a simple arrest shortly afterwards.

See here for further details.

Ganging up on social media

As usual, technology provides the same opportunities for both criminals and law enforcement personnel.

Both sides are getting increasingly sophisticated in the way they use social media to try to outwit each other.

If you know of any new developments in this area, please share it with readers via the comments section below.


[Infographic] How Police Departments Use Twitter

Police departments around the world use Twitter as a means of sharing information with their communities. BrightPlanet recently completed a study to uncover exactly how police departments are using Twitter.

Using BrightPlanet’s harvesting technology, we identified a total of 772 Twitter handles run by state and local law enforcement departments. Throughout the study, BrightPlanet harvested over 115,000 different tweets from the 772 department Twitter handles. We analyzed both the raw text of all the harvested tweets and the data from the profiles of each department handle we identified.

For the purpose of our study, we focused on identifying Twitter handles from police departments that had their description information in English. We’ve created an infographic to help you see the data.

Scroll down to uncover the most popular topics, the most active Twitter accounts, and other characteristics that show exactly how police departments utilize Twitter.

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