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From Hard Times to Hyperlocal

It will not have escaped your attention that the country is experiencing some financial turmoil at present. The news in the last 24 hours has been dominated by a claim that 10,000 police officers will be lost over the coming year. I have no idea if these numbers are true (I’m not sure anybody knows yet), but it is safe to say that in years to come there will be less police officers, less fire officers, less local authority employees , in fact less of lots of people employed to look after us.

I claim no insider knowledge here, I have a good idea what is going on within policing, but a combination of common sense, and watching the news leads me to anticipate a reduction in these posts. Essentially for any organisation, people are the most expensive resource, and therefore any significant reduction in funds is likley to see less people on the ground. We are all trying to make sure that we preserve as many frontline staff as possible, but we will need to explore new ways of delivering our service in these hard times.

One of the difficulties facing policing is that we are often seen as the service of last resort. You will have heard the 999 tapes where people ring us up because they have lost their house keys or can’t find their cat. All services are going to have to take a long, hard look at what they have the capacity to deal with.

I can remember as a young Sergeant volunteering to go to a job where a group of kids had reported seeing a snake. Overcome by a feeling of gallantry, I decided to go and save the kids from what I was sure would be a small grass snake. On my arrival, the snake was about 7 feet long, bright yellow, and not at all intimidated by me and my extendable metal baton. I ended up having to phone Dudley Zoo, and a man (who I later found out was Mark O’Shea, a famous reptile wrestler from TV) turned up, muttering something about it not being dangerous. He duly dispatched the snake into a bag and the world was safe again.

This illustrates my point, whose job is it to deal with escaped snakes? Who says that police have to deal with lost property or take in stray dogs? I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but we are going to have to find ways of helping people to help themselves in some areas where they would previously have rung us.

This is where we come on to hyperlocal sites. My view is simple, all public services ought to be reading, and engaging with hyperlocal sites in areas that they serve. They are an incredibly important method of talking to our communities and finding out what their priorites are, what they are worried about, what they want us to do, and what they are happy for us not to do on their behalf. They already exist, and they are just waiting for us to engage with them.

I would go a step further and say that public bodies ought to be actively encouraging communities to set up hyperlocal sites. There are some fantastic examples of communities making a real difference to their local environment through this medium. Will Perrin from talk about local is well known for his work in this area. He talks about a community who were fed up of dog mess being left on the pavements outside their houses. They came up with the ingenious idea of making little flags branded with the name of their local authority. They then planted these flags in every dog ‘deposit’ they could find, took a picture, and posted it online! Needless to say, it did not take long for the local authority to get it’s act together and clean the streets on a much more regular basis.

When a child loses her cat, they would have a much better chance of finding it if a picture of Tiddles was posted on a hyperlocal site covering their postcode than they would have from asking a police officer to find it. The same is true of a whole host of other issues that communities can actually resolve for themselves, without going to their local public bodies. The local bodies responsible for that area have a new way of engaging with, and having conversations their communities.

Once these sites are in existence, we can then talk to them, help them, and of course take flak from them when we aren’t getting it right. If you click here it will take you through to a simple tool which enables you to search for a hyperlocal site in your area. Any neighbourhood police team, housing association, parent/teachers association or any one of the other public bodies working in an area with a hyperlocal site should be talking to them. If there isn’t one on your area, try and work with the community to set one up, there are loads of people out there happy to help and advise.

I do not pretent that these sites are the solution to all of our problems, or that there will not be really difficult decisions to make moving forwards. Nontheless when we make decisions about local services, we ought to do so from a position where we have listened to local people and allowed them to influence us.

As a Superintendent in Wolverhampton, I will be regularly reading the excellent WV11 and hopefully making the odd contribution. I would urge all of my police colleagues to find their local sites, read them, and engage with them.

As ever, I value your thoughts…

Enhance Marketing of Your Agency With a QR Code

Jumping into the smart phone arena last year, I bought an Android platform device and continue to be amazed at the technology and uses that this tool, and others like it, has to offer.  One of my first ventures was to download a variety of “apps” that I thought may be useful.  While visiting various websites for app reviews, I began to notice a strange, black and white, square box that appeared to be for scanning.  These boxes were usually in print advertisements or placed on the webpage for the particular app.  My investigative prowess was correct; these little boxes were indeed meant to be scanned, by me!  I quickly learned that these boxes were known as “QR” codes.

The QR Code, or Quick Response code, was originally developed in the mid-1990’s in Japan.  The code is a two-dimensional barcode and is meant to contain text, URL, or other data.  The QR code is able to be scanned by most barcode type scanners, including those readily found available for today’s smart phone.  The commercial industry has used this technology extensively, and it is now finding its way into other markets with the widespread use of mobile technology.  It is hard to find people that do not have access to a smart phone these days.  Private industry has recognized the need to reach customers through new means, like that of the QR code, and it is imperative that we in government do so, as well.

Application for government and public safety use is endless.  Some thoughts that quickly come to mind for use and placement of QR codes may include:

  • Adding a QR code to your business card to include a personal vCard allows you to immediately exchange contact information without exchanging the card (saves money and you’re going green at the same time).
  • Placement of a QR code on the agency webpage containing contact information or a link with directions to your facility.
  • Use of a QR code in crime bulletins to allow a viewer to link directly to the agency tip submittal page, like Crime Stoppers.
  • As a teaching aid, the QR code may be inserted into a lesson plan with a hidden message to attract the tech savvy student or youth.
  • Link directly to your Facebook or other social media with a QR code.

The list above is just the tip of what can be accomplished with some simple steps and a short time investment.  Perform a quick Internet search for QR code generator and your return will be filled with viable sources, the majority of which are free!  Many of the free sites ask nothing in return and allow you to generate your customized QR code by simply inputting the information that you wish included in the code.  You may create a code with agency contact information like is now posted on the side bar of the Arcadia Police Department News & Information Blog or create something with a hidden message like the one shown here:

New Media, Old Media, Policing Needs to Get Busy in the News Media

The grumpy newsman and the grumpier cop have tangled many times through the decades over what is news and what is interference.  While one was digging for news, the other often tried to avoid him.

Yet for the mainstream “old media,” the Internet, social media, instant communications and smart phone technologies, have changed the world dramatically over the last several years.  In fact, the change has been so fast, many are still reeling from the shock.

Meanwhile, most of law enforcement has watched the information age and rising knowledge worker age revolution as curious observers.  We should instead embrace the opportunities these innovations have brought to us, and communicate directly with the public.  After all, we work for them.

Where the media was

Since the first printing press, the news media has served our nation well, providing information in the greatest spirit of freedom of the press. This Constitutional right has helped our nation to be open and free, and ensure that those entrusted with authority serve the people who allow them to have that power, or face being removed when the truth is made public.

Yet there are few peace officers who are content with how the news media has often seemingly defined peace officers, our agencies and our actions.  Many a locker room gripe has been heard about the lack of balance of media coverage, and, fair or not, contempt and avoidance has been the officer’s routine approach to a reporter.

Where law enforcement and instant information are today

We are in an exciting new age.  It is an amazing era when police agencies can for the first time create their own content and share it directly with the public via websites, instant messaging (Nixle), and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube).  Yet few agencies are actively engaged.

It is time to define ourselves directly, instead of being defined by others.  Through proactive communications and Public Trust Policing, we can now openly share our core values, and tell of ways we care and try hard to earn and keep the public’s trust.

The public wants us to share.  They want to hear from us.  They have an insatiable appetite for escapist movie and TV cop dramas, but what they really want to hear is the truth from the people they trust, or want to trust even more, their local police.

Public Trust in the News Media is Dropping

While policing has professionalized and built trust through the years, the public’s perception of the news media has declined significantly.   A respected Pew Research study found that:

“ …In 2009…just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate… in 1985, 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate…”  (Pew Research Study: Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low- Public Evaluations of the News Media: 1985-2009 (and also see this article:  Trust in News Media Falls to New Low in Pew Survey.)

The news media has changed, a lot.

As communications technologies have changed at a breathless pace, the news media industry is struggling to find its footing, including financially.  Even the mainstream media has become more infotainment and has laid off a dramatic number of journalists in order to compete in the new media market. Old media news sources have lost ground or shut down, as subscribers and consumers now share their time with the Internet and new media.  Ad revenue has followed the people as they migrate to the Internet for their news (and also see this article: “Economy Dominates Public’s Agenda, Dims Hopes for the Future”.)

The public has embraced these new ways to get and share information, while few are interested in paying for it any more. They don’t feel they need to.  Over half a billion people are on Facebook and Twitter globally, and that means they aren’t reading newspapers and watching TV with that time.

LASD’s Marketing strategy

The public wants us to be open and transparent, for us to tell them what we are doing, and how and why we are doing it.  They also want to know what they can do to make their lives safer, such as through confidential phone, text and email reporting of crime with LACrimestoppers.

The website of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department gets nearly 200,000 unique hits each month.  When the first phase of its re-design began in 2010, the site was modeled after news websites, not any policing sites.  Policing websites are often stale and have few graphics (like ours was), and talk to themselves by using terms like Field Operations Region III, which makes no sense to the public.  Meanwhile, news media websites are dynamic and designed for what is of interest to consumers. The fact is, if news websites aren’t good, they are out of business.  We learned from that lesson.

The Nixle instant messaging news and information feed of the LASD- Headquarters Newsroom (SHB), Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has the highest number of Nixle subscribers in the nation as of Jan. 2011, with over 28,000 unique recipients, including the news media.  Add to that another 10-15,000 more subscribers to local LASD station Nixle feeds and that is a lot of people getting emails and text messages right from their local cops.  It is designed for what the public wants in content, timing, and geo-specific areas.

The increased public use of confidential crime reporting through LACrimestoppers, the increasing use of Twitter (@LASD_News and @MPLASD), and soon Facebook, are all part of an overall LASD Marketing Plan. Strategies have been implemented in phases, especially since early 2009.  None of this is by accident, including the phases of implementation.

Part of the Marketing strategy is improved communications and efficiencies in providing the news media what they need to keep the public informed, by providing news releases that include a goal of: 1) Quality 2) Quantity 3) Timing.

The key difference now is that when content is prepared to give it to the news media, we design and deliver it in a way that the public can also directly receive it.  The news media is just as important as ever to work with, but by shaping the information differently, it has a far wider reach.  Most importantly, even if the news media doesn’t use it, our subscribers and website visitors still get it.

We are all proud of our respective policing agencies and the contributions our partners make in community safety.  Yet in today’s era of instant communications, the world has changed for police agencies too, not just the news media.

There is a huge segment of our communities who strongly believe that if we are not engaged in direct communications with them, then we are not helping them to keep safe and informed, or are outdated and therefore less effective at policing.  Now that these systems exist, the public expects us to use them.

The public has sent us a message.  It’s time to adapt and get busy.

Mike Parker

Captain Michael Parker is the unit commander of Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau (SHB), which leads the Marketing, media relations, and communications efforts of the LASD, the second largest policing agency in the U.S. SHB coordinates the 24-hour dissemination of news and information to the news media, general public, and employees, including executive notifications. SHB is responsible for the design and content of the LASD website at www.lasd.org, Nixle messaging and social media, special events, publications, photography, graphic arts, intellectual property, and international liaison with nearly 100 foreign consulates. He is a 26-year veteran of the LASD, lectures regularly, and has published over 80 articles on policing. He has a B.S. in Finance and speaks fluent Spanish. He serves as 2nd Vice President of the Peace Officers Assn. of Los Angeles County, and 2008-2010 Chairman of the Communications Committee of the California Peace Officers Assn. | Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department | @LASD_News | @MPLASD | Facebook Page

Policing: Further Adventures on Twitter

Over the past 24 hours, the Local Policing Unit from Birmingham South have been tweeting live incidents and their officers’ responses to them. Armed only with a hashtag (#bsp24) and a new twitter account, they have ventured out into the world of social media. Judging by the excellent feedback they have received, I am sure they will be extremely pleased with the results.

Two weeks ago, I spoke to the Commander from Birmingham South, Phil Kay, and discussed the idea with him. He is really forward thinking and had already set the ball rolling with his communications team. At that point they had around 70 people following them on Twitter. By the end of the 24 hour output they had well over 1000.

I have blogged before about the need for police forces to engage more pro-actively in the area of social media, and the example above really does illustrate the point. The communities of South Birmingham clearly want to engage with and talk to the Police. The Commander and his staff now have the ability to communicate with 1000 more people than they had at this point two weeks ago, and perhaps more importantly (and this is the key strength of social media), the community has a way to talk back.

Throughout my years in the Police, we have always struggled to get some communities to engage with us. We labelled those communities as ‘hard to reach.’ It turns out that they were not that hard to reach, we were just reaching in the wrong places. Social media platforms provide us with an absolutely fantastic opportunity to have conversations with people, to recognise their problems and to tell them what we are doing about them.

In the 18 months or so since I first blogged about this issue, the situation in UK policing has improved significantly, there are now some fantastic examples of officers using social media in new and innovative ways. However there are still large areas where there is no social media presence, where officers are actively prevented from engaging by force policies which have simply not caught up with the technological advances of the last decade.

There are now hundreds of officers up and down the country using social media. To my knowledge no riots have been triggered, no officers have been sacked, we have not had to spend huge amounts of money and there have been no breaches of the official secrets act. What we have had is lots of conversations with the people we police and forged some really positive relationships.

To those police areas not currently engaged, I ask the same question as I did in my first blog; Why are you waiting?

Using Twitter Hashtags for Emergency Management

Relationships+Technology (Social Media) to Prevent Violence

Relationships and technology are the key to community safety.  The importance of #WeDay is something we all must understand!

Twitter hash tags are very useful tools for police, school boards, media outlets, parents and students for dealing with fast moving emergency management scenarios.  This post will provide insight into the use of Twitter hash tags by police and partner agencies in two 2010 gun related calls in and around Toronto schools as well as a missing mentally challenged person case during extreme cold temperatures in downtown Toronto.

What is a ‘hash tag’? “A hash tag is simply a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. It is a word within the 140 characters allowed in a tweet that has a # prefix. (The # is a hash symbol, hence the term hash tag or hashtag.) source article on “The Twitter Hash Tag: What Is It?”

In the fall of 2010, the Toronto Police Service Corporate Communications team worked in partnership with the Toronto District School Board Communications Team, and used Twitter hash tags to effectively communicate with the community , emergency management partners and the media to manage the situations effectively.

Something very important in this story is a commentary at the end of the post, provided by TJ Goertz, the Toronto District School Board Communications employee who was working @TDSB_Official twitter accounts for both of these scenarios. Working in multidisciplinary collaboration for effective emergency management is the key to success.  It all happens very fast, and the more comfortable you are as a police communications person with all the agencies and their functions around you during an emergency, the more effective you will do your job.

Sometimes when I write or try to explain the effectiveness of social media applications to people, especially fellow police officers and civilian managers.. I often get told “get to the facts” .. If you stop reading now.. you have the facts.. and the moral of the story.. “Using Twitter and hash tags for emergency management works.”

If you are the hands on person who will be in charge of using social media, in particular-Twitter- and want to know how to do that effectively using relationships and technology …. patience is a virtue.. read on.

If you are a police, school board or media manager type, and don’t have time to read on, or simply don’t want to, here is what I would do if I were you:  Invest funding and human resources in training and staffing for effective use of social media for your agency immediately, and initiate corporate partnership strategies with your partner agencies integrated and linked in social media.

#WeDay turned into  #CTGun day for my partner and I on a school day in Toronto a month into the 2010 school year when a shot was fired in a large downtown Toronto high school just after the noon hour.

About a month later, a day of social media policy making meetings at Toronto Police Service headquarters turned into action when the Toronto District School Board Communications Team contacted the Toronto Police Communications team about another gun call that indirectly was effecting two of their schools.  The hash tag #54Gun was used.

On both occasions the situation involved many people asking for information about an emerging community safety situation all at the same time.  How can you effectively handle these situations using modern day technology? It is simple..

  1. have an everyday presence and following on Twitter and Facebook
  2. create or start tweeting official information using a new or already created hash tag immediately about the emergency incident as soon as it comes to your attention
  3. engage contact in person or on the phone with the police and school board persons in charge of the incident, as well as your local media personalities.

Relationships and technology strategy over the past five years could never have been more important than at these moments that I am about to describe for you.

Incident #1

Toronto cop Tony Vella has worked in the media office at police headquarters for a number of years.  I became his colleague in the office in April, 2010 when the position of “Social Media Officer” was added to the “Corp Comm” team by the officer in charge, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly.

There have been growing pains for social media implementation into the daily business of the Toronto Police Service Corporate Communications office for sure, but never between Tony and I.  Tony is new to Twitter and Facebook and I am new to the day to day grind of the traditional media and cop relations, although not totally new.. due to all the work I had the honour to do with the Toronto Crime Stoppers program prior to joining the Corp Comm team.

September 30, 2010 started off like any other at 8am when I arrived in the downtown core by GO Train to Union station.  Several students were in the station that day from all across Toronto, and all across Ontario, as they were arriving to attend “We Day” at the Air Canada Centre (the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and Toronto Raptors basketball team).  This was a day to build community and trust with the kids in a theme of community building and featured performances and speeches from great names like @CraigKielburger of Free The Children and now famous Canadain rapper K’Naan “Like A Waving Flag’ song fame (http://Twitter.com/IAMKNAAN )

The good thing about the We Day celebration in my mind was that it was going to be live streamed on Facebook .. and it was an opportunity similar to when Barack Obama was sworn in for the world to particpate in dialogue on the Facebook feed.

My focus that day became to log into the live feed at http://WeDay.com to join the conversation using my official Toronto Police Social Media Facebook profile.  I decided that I might be better accepted in the crowd as my original Crime Stoppers Facebook Profile which is http://Facebook.com/ScotMills (http://Twitter.com/GraffitiBMXCop).

I proceeded to log in to the concert and watch it live, and participate in the dialogue both tweeting and using facebook.  Some of the comments I was getting from others who were doing the same (students both in the audience and following the stream around the world) were posts like “Wow, there is a cop on facebook”.  It was an interesting dialogue to say the least.

During all of this, our office received a call that a gun shot had been fired in Central Technical high school on Bathurst St.  My supervisor, Meaghan Gray, Director of Issues Management at Toronto Police Service Corporate Communications gave the order to attend the scene and use social media officially for Toronto Police Service as best as we can.

Constable Vella (http://Twitter.com/OfficerVella) and I quickly changed into our full police uniforms, and drove an unmarked police car to the scene.  Tony drove and I tweeted on my blackberry.  It should be noted that I brought a power inverter with me, as I anticipated a potentially long situation where power to my blackberry could become an issue.

I immediately created the Hash Tag #CTGun.  The incident commanders from 14 Division had already designated a staging area for the media at the southeast corner of the school on Harbord Street at Borden Street.  I updated the media using Twitter that @OfficerVella would be the media spokesperson for the incident and that we would be updating from the scene with using hash tag #ctgun.

I also tweeted a few times using my @GraffitiBMXCop twitter account into #WeDay hash tag stating that there was a school shooting at Central Tech and to follow #CTGun.  I also advised that I was switching over to the @TorontoPolice account for official updates. Within 15 minutes #ctgun was a trending topic in Toronto.  We had accomplished our community safety communications goals of emergency management.  A spin off possibility is that the potential for suspect information being called in to the police or ‘tweeted or facebooked’ to the police increases because of the improved communications.  Exact telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the investigating officers were posted into social media, as well as how to anonymously submit a tip to Crime Stoppers (Talk;  1-800-222–TIPS (8477) Type:  http://222tips.com or Text TOR plus your message to CRIMES (274637) or “Leave A Tip” Tab on Facebook Pages.

The geographic demographic of the over 2000 students at the school are from all over Toronto.  Effectively, any student who was following #WeDay hash tag was now made aware of the #ctgun incident, and if they were interested in the event for any reason, whether it be curiosity or they had pertinent information they needed to communicate with the police, they could now follow the official updates on the incident using #ctgun.  In the age of most youth having a smartphone in their possession, and using social media, this becomes a quicky and effective means of communication with a large group of people who may have information in a timely fashion.

One challenge to using Twitter, is who is your ‘target audience’.  For the most part, the traditional media, as well as activists and interested persons are following the @TorontoPolice twitter account.  The youth of Toronto use Facebook.  The good part about using Twitter is the feed is linked into the Toronto Police Facebook page.. so the updates are going right into a medium that the students are used to.  All they have to do is know that this official update information is coming to the Toronto Police Facebook page and hit the ‘LIKE’ button on the page to get the feeds.  The hope is that the students will not ‘Unlike’ the page after the incident, and become part of the community safety dialogue that is ongoing on Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis, and not just for an ‘incident’.

I met Detective Sergeant Ian McArthur of 14 Division at the scene.  He was the hands on person who communicated official source information to me that I was putting out into the twitter feed.  The result was that we were able to broadcast that all the students were safe on twitter and facebook, which was immediately re-broadcasted by all the major traditional media outlets in Toronto, effectively advising parents that their children were safe.

At the scene I was able to dialogue with the Toronto District School Board staff, who were dealing with nearby elementary schools in a ‘hold and secure’ situation (one step below a full lockdown’).  The @TorontoPolice twitter feed became the lead source of official, up to date and accurate information on what was happening, what suspects the police were looking for, and that the other students were safe.  There was no panic from the students on the inside involved in the lockdown, or from the minimal number of parents who attended the scene, as the information of safety had already been mass broadcasted, and there was no need for worry or panic.

Incident #2

Communication using twitter hash tags became an important, timely and very effective means of communication once again when a high school student on her way to school on a Toronto city bus text messaged her mother saying that she overheard some youth on the bus saying they had a gun, then heard the gun cock.  Her mother called 911 and before long police had two suspects in custody, one school in “lockdown” and another in “hold and secure” .. and I was busy communicating with the Toronto District School Board,  the media and public using hash tag #54Gun.

One tactical error made on this one, which is a ‘lessons learned’ going forward is that I started the hash tag #EYGun without checking if the tag existed for another topic first.  Turned out that that hash tag was being used in another language on twitter. Once this was realized (thanks to the heads up work by @Lawscomm ) we immediately switched the hash tag to #54Gun which stood for the police division area that the incident was occuring in.  This incident successfully concluded with the apprehension of a suspect, but the gun was not recovered by police.  The media put the information out very quickly, and the official source was all taken over the phone by media relations officer @OfficerVella

Incident #3

Like stated at the outset… explaining how using hash tags on twitter works as a timely and effective means of communication works takes time… It is interesting to note what Detective Sergeant Ian McArthur stated during a discussion I had with him recently about the use of hash tags.  He stated that he still didn’t fully understand how social media worked, but knew for sure that it was a helpful tool in the Central Tech case and he reminded me of a missing person case that we effectively used social media for earlier in the year.

It was this discussion with this ace investigator, as well as a meeting with the management team at 14 Division between our Toronto Police Service Social Media Working Group member Sergeant Tim Burrows, myself and the management team of 14 Division led by Superintendent Ruth White, that truly made me realize the need for information on this topic to be published, understood and acted upon in policing agencies around the world.

Det McArthur reminded me about a missing 37 year old female named Lily Dong who had the mental capacity of a child and went missing without a coat in freezing temperatures on January 11, 2010 in the Dupont St and Dufferin Ave area of Toronto.  A full level 3 search was set up, complete with a command post at the Wallace Emerson Community Centre.  This is the highest level of search in Toronto Police policy.

There was considerable community concern and media attention to this case due to the freezing temperatures and the mental capacity of the missing woman.  We immediately started tweeting about the case.  Within minutes, Toronto Mayor David Miller @IamDavidMiller was re-tweeting our appeal for information to his thousands of twitter followers.  The police ended up receiving a call from a citizen spotting the missing woman on Lakeshore Bv, about 10km away from where she went missing.  She was located safety and returned to her family.

It is difficult to say if social media was the reason this missing person was found, but it surely helped, as stated below by Det McArthur: “I would suggest that this is an excellent example of how quickly social media assists law enforcement in timely awareness of local community issues.  Again, I can’t say for certain that social media was the sole source for locating this missing woman, it certainly helped in creating awareness and bringing this to a successful conclusion.”

What follows is a message from Mr. T.J. Goertz of the Toronto District School Board:

T.J. Goertz

Using Hashtags and Twitter During School Lockdowns

The TDSB Perspective

By T.J. Goertz, Communications Coordinator, Toronto District School Board

We’ve been using Twitter to communicate with TDSB parents, media and the wider community since the beginning of the 2009-10 school year. In September 2010, we actively began using Twitter hashtags, in cooperation with Toronto Police Services, during school lockdown and hold and secure situations.

Our first major incident was a shooting at Central Technical School in late September. I spoke with Constable Scott Mills early in the investigation to confirm details and we then tweeted frequent updates using the #ctgun hashtag. We also used specific hashtags during later incidents at East York C.I. and Riverdale C.I.

We’ve found Twitter to be extremely useful in updating both the media and local communities as quickly and effectively as possible. For example, during the Central Tech incident, the National Post quoted directly from a tweet we published in an online news story. We also received positive feedback and a “thank you” from a tweeting parent who was concerned for her son’s safety at Riverdale.

By working with the police and the local school, using social media, we are providing one more way for parents and guardians to get the information they need, as soon as it’s available.

~T.J. Goertz

Conclusion from Constable Mills:

I guess being the author of the blog post, one reserves the right for the last comment… please revisit the first words of this post Relationships and technology are the key to community safety. The importance of #WeDay is something we all must understand!
. In Toronto we have come a long way with relationships between professionals in a multi-disciplinary manner within our agencies. We still face a number of challenges, not unlike any other major urban centre. The reality of the Central Tech school shooting.. is that the police didn’t recover the gun used in the shooting, just the shell casing. Despite intensive police and school board investigation, no evidence to indicate who had the gun or fired the shot was uncovered. In the #54Gun incident, the suspect was arrested, but the gun was never recovered.

The importance of #WeDay is something we all must understand.

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