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Social Media Quick Tip: Google Hangouts on Air Provides Great Advantages to LE

A Google Hangout from a social media training session in Spokane, WA, on May 3. During the hangout, whoever is speaking occupies the large screen. Thumbnails L to R: Gordon Scobbie, Deputy Chief, Tayside, Scotland, Kempton Lam, community member from Calgary, AB, the room in Spokane and Scott Mills, Toronto Police Social Media Officer. (Photo: Scott Mills)

Whether or not to recommend law enforcement agencies embrace Google+ is something I’ve struggled with for some time. I’m a huge proponent of “fish where the fish are” when devising a social media strategy. On one hand, the number of Google+ users (175 million) is still far fewer than Facebook’s (850 million), but numbers alone never tell the whole story.

Google has been creating a lot of buzz lately with its efforts to consolidate its various offerings into a more user-friendly all-on-one network. But perhaps the best reason to now recommend law enforcement take a look at Google+ is Google Hangouts on Air (HOA).

A hangout is G+’s video conferencing feature which allows up to 10 users to chat with video. But Hangouts on Air, which was released to the masses this week, allows the host to broadcast the hangout, live, on YouTube. Add to the equation that YouTube has 800M user accounts and 4 billion page views per day, this HOA thing is worth paying (a lot of) attention to.

Streaming video used to be cumbersome and require the use of a Livestream or Ustream account. With HOA, you need only a Google+ account enabled with HOA and a linked YouTube account.

Hangouts use for LE ranges from enhancing internal communications by using it for online meetings with your own staff or police leaders in different geographies, to live broadcast and recording/archiving of press conferences and events. In addition to streaming on YouTube, embed the broadcast to stream on a PD website.

Getting started with HOA is easy and Google itself has created a .pdf technical guide.

In the past two weeks, I participated in several hangouts with law enforcement and community members. In each, at least three countries were represented. Think of how useful this could be for law enforcement, whether your hangout is public (with HOA) or private.

This Social Media QuickTip was previously published at LawOfficer.com.

thesource

You know it’s a good day when… the local paper calls you Pravda

Police departments are constantly struggling to get the local media to report on topics that, in spite of their best efforts, still go uncovered and they’re frustrated that when they do gain media attention, the story is often reported, well, not quite right. The latest department to up the ante using open source technology and move more towards providing its own news is the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), and the local media are less than thrilled about it.

Earlier this week MPD announced The Source, a blog where it says media and citizens alike can go for the best information about what the PD is up to. In its press release MPD said of its new website:

We’ll correct the news stories that got it wrong and highlight the ones that got it right. …. We encourage you to check back to The Source at www.milwaukeepolicenews.com  when you hear news reports that prompt you to seek more information. We’d like you to check us out first, because we will provide the news to you at the same time we’re providing it to the media.

It’s not only about generating their own news but PD’s are also having to work more efficiently during a time when most are facing cuts to their ranks. Some might think that MPD is acting progressively and efficiently, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel isn’t seeing it that way. It an editorial entitled The bunker at the Milwaukee Police Department the Journal said to expect to hear from the MPD about “what a great job officers are doing” in The Source and updates about “when the next bake sale will be held.” The paper compared the MPD to the Pravda, of the [former] Soviet Union.

Chief Ed Flynn answered the Journal’s editorial, online, on The Source (of course). He pointed out that most large PD’s don’t do daily media briefings and that reporters will still have the same access to ask questions of the PD. He added, “We already have been engaged with the community via a robust presence on social media – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We’re not new to the public conversation. We’re enhancing it.”

MPD’s Communications Director Anne Schwartz says her skin has gotten a little thicker this week. She added, “There will still be news conferences, there will still be availabilities with Chief Flynn … This news site replaces the outdated face-to-face briefings with a select few media representatives, with a contemporary platform that enables anyone who wants to, with access to information for all. That is the essence of public information.”

The final word from both opinion pieces pretty much sums up the week’s events:

The Journal editorial ended with,

“The truth, unspun by government officials, usually does get out. This news organization and the others in town will make sure that happens.”

From Chief Flynn, 

“To the Journal Sentinel I say, ‘Welcome to the 21st Century’.”

Cover image for Kansas City PD "Women Police Officers" Pinterest Board

Social Media Quick Tip: Pinterest & Police

Cover image for Kansas City PD "Women Police Officers" Pinterest Board

Another day, another social networking tool. Pinterest is the latest to garner big interest with users, but it’s actually been around for more than a year.

Pinterest is the 16th most popular website in the U.S., the 25th most popular in Canada and the 31st most popular in the UK, according to AppAppeal. As one who advises LE agencies to go where the people are, Pinterest is at the point where law enforcement should give it a serious look.

Pinterest is a photo-based social sharing site that allows you to “share the things you love” by posting them to boards. The question becomes: What does law enforcement love?

The Kansas City Police Department seems to love a lot – at least by evidence of its Pinterest boards! The department has been on Pinterest for only three weeks but already has 19 boards.

According to Public Relations Specialist Sarah Boyd of Kansas City (Mo.) Police, some of the PD’s most popular boards include KCPD Fuzzy Friends, which features photos of its K9 and horse patrol members as well as a cat who mouses the horse barn. Another board is focused on Identifying Street Drugs and another is on Women Police Officers.

Boyd says she first got the idea from the U.S. Army Social Media Team. She said it gives them a place to feature the PD’s thousands of photos but also shows the depth and breath of the department. She added, “a lot of people think of the officer on the street but there are 2,000 people in our department and they all do something different.” KC Police are also interested in having their content appeal to women. In the U.S., Pinterest users are reported to be 83% female (46% in the UK).

In Scotland, there are eight police forces. All eight will be combined into one by this time next year. The deputy chief constable of one of those agencies plans to use Pinterest to honor the history and contribution of his soon-to-be defunct agency. DCC Scobbie is with the Tayside, Scotland Police Service and as the social media lead for policing in the UK, he’s very aware of how powerful social media can be. He said “we want to share the photos we’ve collected over the years with the public and ask them to add theirs. It’s a way of marking the end of Tayside Policing because it won’t exist anymore after April of 2013.”

How about a wanted persons board, an anti-cyberbullying board, a safe driving board, or even a self-defense board? If you can visualize it, you can pin it to a board, and potentially reach large, new audiences.

Controversy about Pinterest centers around copyrighted use of photos. So far there haven’t been any major copyright lawsuits involving Pinterest, but some photo sharing sites have created an option for users to opt their photos out from being pinned. Be aware also, according to Pinterest’s Terms of Service, that anything  you pin publicly becomes useable to others.

 

This social media QuickTip was originally published on LawOfficer.com on April 11th.

lte

What’s Next for the Nationwide Public Safety LTE Network – And You

Today, many of us may be impatient for action on broadband mobile mission-critical communications, and understandably so. The call for a nationwide interoperable network for public safety has been heard for more than a decade. Now that Congress has passed legislation reallocating the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety and providing $7 billion in grant money for the creation of such a system, the build-out can finally begin.

LTE is widely viewed as the key to unleashing “the power of the network” for the full scope of mission-critical communications. When it hits the streets for public safety, we’ll see dramatic and immediate changes.

For example, a sheriff might share a video of an escaping criminal and use predictive solutions to determine where he’s headed, then send squad cars to that site and quickly apprehend him. On another front, firefighters would benefit from a broadband network that pumps data to tablet computers, such as floor plans of burning buildings, to expedite rescues of trapped victims.

But nowhere will the benefits of LTE be more self-evident than in disaster situations. In recent years we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number and severity of both natural and man-made disasters that place enormous strains on first responder networks. These events, which always seem to come out of the blue, have earned the nickname “black swans,” from the title of a best-selling book by mathematician and investor Nassim Taleb. A “black swan,” in this instance, is a random or rare event thought to be highly improbable or even impossible – until it happens. In the public safety arena, examples of black swans are almost too numerous to mention, ranging from acts of God to acts of terror and violence.

Sometimes it takes a black swan to spur action for improvement. The tragic events of 9/11 as well as Hurricane Katrina certainly were the black swans that spurred action for the nationwide LTE network that’s starting to take shape.

But this change to LTE won’t take place all at once or across-the-board in all places, and it also won’t abandon other technologies that have proved their worth in certain areas.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says that while a public safety broadband network will likely enhance interoperability nd increase data transfer rates, it could take 10 years or more before LTE will be able to accommodate voice capabilities. That means land mobile radio (LMR) will remain the standard for mission-critical voice communications for a while yet. LMR has done a creditable job for years and has made many new improvements in the last decade. It’s gone from analog to digital, and is available as an IP network-based service. APCO P25 has also enabled much-improved interoperability between different LMR systems, provided enhanced functionality and ensured competition through open standards.

Choosing the right model for LTE will also be critical to the network’s success. The fallback position of using legacy, closed, proprietary approaches is still favored by a few, but this is an antiquated notion for mission-critical communications. Instead, we need a model that’s based on the following principles: non-proprietary, open architecture, standards-based, customer-owned (and with customer input on design), and above all, interoperable.

It’s generally agreed that interoperability will be among the greatest challenges in the evolution toward LTE. LMR, P25, LTE and, most likely, different flavors of each will all be in use at the same time because there’s no single technology that fits everybody’s needs. For a nationwide public safety broadband network to be fully effective, we’ll need a layered architecture that’s built to mission-critical specs – and is truly interoperable between locations and technologies.

facewatch

Criminals face an uncertain future with Facewatch

Facewatch is the latest online development in the law-enforcement v criminals high-tech arms race with cops and robbers adapting new digital techniques to outwit each other.

New technologies present new opportunities for law enforcement agencies to catch and prosecute criminals – from Smartphones that can report themselves stolen to the increasingly sophisticated police use of social media for gathering intelligence, investigating crimes and establishing evidence.

Of course, the same technologies present new opportunities for criminals too who have used a number of online tools to try to avoid detection or target victims.

Facewatch is a  privately operated “National low level crime reporting and image sharing system for businesses”.

It operates as a website and an app, Facewatch id, with versions available for Android, Apple and Blackberry phones.

How it works

Once a business registers with Facewatch, it can upload details of any crimes straight on to the website with details, witness statements and, critically, CCTV evidence and images of any suspects.

There are a number of key components to the scheme:

  • Police have full access to all the crime report details.
  • Businesses can share images of suspects with either other branches of their company or other local businesses which have joined the same Facewatch group.
  • Members of the public can log on to the website or use the app to look at photos of local criminals and see if they recognise anyone.
  • Businesses can provide a full package of evidence in a convenient way.
I tried the Facewatch Id site out myself. Access is immediate with no delay for registration or other log-in processes.
I found 182 images of suspects within a 5 mile radius of my postcode, so the site is obviously being used extensively by local businesses and police.
Disappointingly, I did not recognise anyone but in approximately three quarters of cases, the image was easily clear enough for me to have made an identification if I’d known the person.

Does it work?

Facewatch is endorsed by the Association of Chief Probation Officers and has testimonials from the Met Police Commissioner, @ngargan_npia and others on its website. It currently works with the Met and Cheshire Police Forces with other forces showing interest.

The main test of its effectiveness will be whether members of the public use the site and app and identify local criminals who they then report to the police.

According to the @Facewatch twitter account, the early signs are promising:

 

 

 

My one area of concern is that it will be important that Facewatch does not duplicate the work of individual forces who are already routinely post similar photos and videos on their websites and Facebook pages.

It will be important to integrate Facewatch and Facewatch Id into local police sites where members of the public are more likely to be browsing.

When I looked at the Cheshire and Met Facebook pages there were still links to CCTV footage and stills on these, rather than a link to the  Facewatch system.

Let’s hope that if Facewatch becomes the national system for sharing images of suspects,  the two systems are integrated.

 

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