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#polcasm = when a police officer gets a little too excited

Dave Briggs made that quip at the Policing 2.0: The Citizen and Social Media conference in England on October 22nd. #polcasm is the Twitter hashtag for the event, which was sponsored by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

npiaThere was indeed much to get excited about at #polcasm. Three things stick out in my mind as highlightes: 1) The “Balance Your Bobby” project in North Wales and well as the agency’s approach to neighborhood policing and its incorporation of Facebook, 2) William Perrin’s “Talk About Local” project and 3) the presentation by Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond about mypolice.org.

Inspector Ian Davies of North Wales Police presented the “Balance Your Bobby” project. It’s an online system for citizens to influence where the officers should focus attention within the police jurisdiction. What I learned from Ian the night before at dinner was even more interesting to me and was one of the only real uses of social media tools, as opposed to innovative new website-creation tools, that I learned about at the conference.

Upon landing at the North Wales Police website, you’re presented with the option to choose your neighborhood.
nowalesOnce you select it, the next page offers a Facebook site for each and every neighbourhood. On the Facebook page, the officers assigned to that neighborhood offer information and every single one of them is listed, complete with how to contact them. It seems like a simple idea, but many police departments covet their officer phone numbers and email addresses as top-secret info. What the heck for? Even more interesting, Ian said each officer is not allowed to interact on the sites with their personal accounts, only with their official department profiles which were set up and managed by the police department.

Talk about Local is awesome. It enables communities to create their own local sites in their neighborhoods to facilitate communication about safety issues and to become more involved with improving their own areas. talkaboutlocal.org was created by William Perrin, a former civil servant and private secretary to Tony Blair.

Unfortunately the mypolice.org service has yet to be launched. It reminds me of ratemycop.com, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. But what’s different about mypolice is that the conversation can go both ways between citizens and police. When it’s up and running it promises to be a tool, for all of the UK, for people to post comments or to provide suggestion for improvements and invaluable insight. They hope to reach groups that are often not heard from and provide a way for the law enforcement agencies to interactive with all citizens. I’ll try to keep an eye on the service and report back.

I was asked several times while at the conference and since returning home how what’s going on in the UK compares to what police departments in North America are doing in the social media world. According to Mike Alderson, (@openeyecomms) 15 of the 44 police services in England and Wales are on Twitter. But from my own observation they make the same mistakes with Twitter as police agencies everywhere: they don’t engage, they follow few, and they don’t tweet with an identity other than the PD.

But the fact remains that more and more law enforcement agencies everywhere are using social media and many are doing it very well. If each agency could learn from the best practices of others, we’d achieve greatness in real time. Suffice it to say “real time” is not happening, but the ball is picking up speed.

A huge thank-you to Nick Keane of the NPIA for including me in an outstanding day.

Three reasons every cop should be on LinkedIn

The top three reasons police officers should use LinkedIn are pretty much the same as the top three reasons anybody should use LinkedIn.
They are:

1. Participating in LinkedIn groups
2. Leveraging the LinkedIn extended network to solve police business problems
3. Career development

The disconnect is that many cops aren’t necessarily business minded and they may not be forward-thinking about their own careers as might be beneficial to them. But the times, they are a changin’ and so too should the way police officers think of their own careers, the running of their agencies and the way they connect with other like-minded people.

Others can see my organization is on the cutting edge. My contacts are CFO’s and COO’s who comment that the police agency is not afraid to take risks and we’re willing to share what we’re doing. We’re not cloak and dagger as law enforcement is known for. ~ Chief David Molloy, Novi, MI

Chief David Molloy

Chief David Molloy

Chief David Molloy heads the Police Department of Novi, Michigan. He joined LinkedIn about 8 months ago and already has connected with 450 other professionals, both within law enforcement and not. Molloy masterfully leverages the online tool in all three of the ways mentioned above.

Molloy uses LinkedIn to connect with leaders both locally and outside of his community. He also communicates regularly with colleagues around the country who are members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Associates (FBINAA) through groups on LinkedIn.

Novi’s top cop maintains his reading list on LinkedIn and regulary gets comments on the books he’s reading. Additionally, he says he welcomes the transparency LinkedIn offers, adding, “Others can see my organization is on the cutting edge. My contacts are CFO’s and COO’s who comment that the police agency is not afraid to take risks and we’re willing to share what we’re doing. We’re not cloak and dagger as law enforcement is known for.”

Police officers can otherwise connect with other cops who share the same interests or who might be tackling the same types of issues that they are. One of the best ways to do this is to join a group. The Law Enforcement 2.0 Group for example was started just a few weeks ago by Mike Waraich at Daily Splice and addresses issues regarding law enforcement’s use and adoption of social media. It’s fairly active, if only because we social media bloggers are chiming in a lot, and it already has about 75 members. Topics that groups address are seemingly endless but if something isn’t addressed by a group, anybody can start one. Molloy plans to start a group for Michigan Police Chiefs.

Sign up, search for some friends and colleagues and join some groups. Go get the first 20 or so contacts by initiating a request and asking people to connect; it gets easier and faster after that. It takes about 75 connections and some time on a Saturday afternoon to fully realize the potential of LinkedIn. Explore the “statistics” to see your extended network. Once you see how many people and places are in your extended network, imagine the possibilities if you’d like to relocate or take your LE career in a new direction. And don’t worry, you can fully manage settings to prevent people who aren’t connected with you from seeing certain aspects of your profile, even your name and photo.

The basic LinkedIn account is free. In fact the only thing I don’t like about LinkedIn is that to upgrade to the next level costs $25 per month. I think that’s a bit steep but there’ll come a day when I might bite the bullet and do it anyway. So sign up, join Law Enforcement 2.0, and tell them “Lauri sent you”.

Wanted in Montreal: one social media cop

Recently, it was my pleasure to sit down with Mario Plante, the Assistant-Directeur Chef de service at the Montreal Police Service (SPVM-Service de police de la ville de Montreal). Plante explained his title as “# three in charge”. We chatted about SPVM’s plans to integrate social media into its operations.

SPVMlogoEarlier in the year, Deputy Chief Jean-Guy Gagnon spent several weeks with the Toronto Police Service as part of an exchange between the two departments to allow top officers from each to observe the best practices of the other. One of the top takeaways Gagnon took from TPS is its use of social media tools, especially with regard to how Constable Scott Mills, Toronto’s Youth Officer, reaches young people,  including  those involved in gangs. Plante explained, “and when he game back to Montreal, he said how can we do what Scott Mills is doing, here?”.

The answer appears to be that the SPVM will hire from within its ranks of youth officers, one officer who’s primary role will be to work the social media tools to connect with Montreal’s young people. Plante said they will name someone from within the Youth Policing Unit who gets along well with kids and who also possesses the right psychological profile to succeed. Montreal’s youth population is extremely culturally diverse. The officer placed into this position will have to communicate with kids from dozens of cultural backgrounds.

With regard to the right profile, Constable Mills recommends, “To be a cop working with social media and relationship building, you have to be a spatial thinker that can visualize positive outcomes well into the future…The satisfaction of the job becomes … more of a quiet satisfaction you get from the thank you from a parent when they know that you have done everything you can online to try to find their missing child,… acknowledging that they know you are working in an online world that few adults completely understand, but their murdered child was an integral part of.”

To be a cop working with social media and relationship building, you have to be a spatial thinker that can visualize positive outcomes well into the future…The satisfaction of the job becomes … more of a quiet satisfaction you get from the thank you from a parent when they know that you have done everything you can online to try to find their missing child,… acknowledging that they know you are working in an online world that few adults completely understand, but their murdered child was an integral part of.

The officer’s title won’t include the words “social media cop”. That emphasis is my own. But the concept is new and was previously addressed in the article “Social media police officer?” by fellow blogger, Mike Vallez. The default position in a PD to handle social media so far, has been within the communications office. That is of course, with the exception of the departments who get into social media because one cop just decided to do it one day as is what happened in Toronto with Mills and his colleague Sgt Tim Burrows. For the Montreal Police Service to decide that its first official foray into the social media world it will appoint a sworn street-level officer is brilliant.

It’s brilliant because the person who possesses the knowledge and the relationships with the segment of the community of interest, is absolutely the best person to add social media to his bag-of-tricks to enhance the work he’s already done. Mills is illustrative of this. His mantra is “relationships and technology”. He preaches it to whoever will listen as well as to those who won’t. But he’s a (relentless and intense) master at turning kids around because of the relationships he fosters, relationships often made even better on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else the kids are.

Not only will they select someone who already works the streets as a youth officer, they then plan to send the officer to Toronto to learn from the best – Constable Mills. Plante said they hope to have the officer identified by January or February and to be shadowing Mills in the March/April timeframe.

Plante said the plan is to give the operation a year, at which time they will reevaluate and take a look at expanding. I said to him then and I’ll repeat it here for the record. It won’t take that long. I give him six months. Providing they make a good hire, they’ll want to expand the the effort sooner rather than later.

On an unrelated note, in addition to the fact that the top cops at SPVM are demonstrating how progressively-minded and strategically-smart they are, they are also some very snappy dressers. 😉

Cops go to the 140conf in L.A. free!

The Twitter 140conference is coming to Los Angeles October 27th an 28th. It’s my understanding that the panel “Three Tweeting Chiefs” is the first time law enforcement has appeared at such a conference. I will moderate the panel with @bocachief, Dan Alexander, Chief at Boca Raton, FL; @acwhitney, Scott Whitney, Assistant Chief at Oxnard, CA; and @chiefstacey, John Stacey, Chief at Bellevue, NE.

140confAs it says on the 140conf website:
At the #140conf events, we look at twitter as a platform and as a language we speak. Over time it will neither be the only platform nor the only language. #140conf is not an event about microblogging or the place where people share twitter “tips and techniques” but rather where we explore the effects of the real-time Internet on Business. (or in this case, law enforcement).

It’s all about the “state of now”. Twitter is really the first application to be real time. The immediacy with Twitter hadn’t ever happened before and really hasn’t been duplicated (yet). I follow +/- 260 police departments on Twitter. Few are really leveraging its capabilities really well. If you’re on Twitter as a PD and you tweet your police blotter once a day, or you tweet once a month, or not at all…. And/or if you don’t follow your citizens… And/or if you tweet as @[insertPDnamehere] without a human name, at least in your profile, you are NOT getting all you can out of the application. Twitter is one-to-one communication. At no time has there been such an opportunity for LE to enhance its brand/reputation, build or improve relationships, increase communication to citizens, recruit and retain good cops, or just show that your officers are – human…. and the list goes on…

Consider attending the 140conference if you’re in the LA area. You’ll hear from all types of organizations and individuals who rock at Twitter. You will surely open your eyes to potential applications in your agency. If you’re a law enforcement officer, send me an email with your name and agency information. Jeff Pulver, the conference organizer has graciously allowed me to bring a “few friends” free of charge. But space is limited. Please use lauri[at]lawscomm[dot]net. O.K., It’s not really free though. If you come, the entrance fee is that you must make sure to say hello (to me).

Data Sharing for Law Enforcement – Is Web 2.0 Appropriate?

Stephen G Serrao

Stephen G Serrao

Back in May, an article for Federal Computer Week entitled, “Intelligence Community Wrestles with Web 2.0 Tools for Information Sharing.” by Alan Joch asked an important question that caught my attention: “Do Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and wikis, have the potential to improve data sharing for law enforcement intelligence analysis?”

Such technologies do connect diverse groups and potentially large numbers of participants who might not otherwise work together. Blogs and wikis are relatively quick and easy to launch, and require minimal training for participants. They excel at presenting new, quickly unfolding information. This would be an important advancement if it aids information discoverability.

But wikis and blogs alone can’t adequately solve the discoverability dilemma. There are several key concerns worth discussing from my experience as an intelligence commander, my role designing data sharing systems for law enforcement agencies and Fusion Centers. Ultimately, law enforcement agencies still need to rely on data sharing technologies and information search platforms.

Why? First, Web 2.0 tools can’t be counted on for completeness and reliability of constantly changing information. Unfinished intelligence may be published yet lack significant evaluation by analysts, which is an important step to validating and publishing actionable intelligence. Participation would most likely include only a subset of the intelligence community and might diminish over time.

Also, intelligence data sharing activity must comply with regulations about how an agency stores its intelligence reports, who can see them, and how often they must be reviewed. Modern intelligence software has specific workflows, permissions, and automation to ensure law enforcement officers adhere to these regulations. When it comes to compliance, Web 2.0 tools lack these specific refinements and crucial automation. As privacy concerns grow, groups like the ACLU are watching for examples of non-compliance.

Web 2.0 tools seem to work best for connecting people and ideas-not data. And connecting people isn’t necessarily the answer for information sharing in law enforcement. Many believe police need to move beyond the practice of relying on personal relationships to make progress on an investigation.

Lastly, the sheer amount of data that could hold relevant clues is too large for any one person to digest, so while Web 2.0 interactions might help, they don’t leverage the untapped potential of data we don’t even know we have.

As an example, when an analyst is searching for records of a gang member with a particular tattoo, that query needs to be run against data warehouses to find long-forgotten, free-text narratives contained in intelligence and/or incident reports. Discovering relationships takes processing power and capabilities, such as “unstructured free text data search,” to find useful information buried deep in a “comment” field in far-flung law enforcement databases. Searching unstructured free text data requires specialized software, but it solves a major problem of finding leads when you don’t know where to look.

While Web 2.0 may give law enforcement officials useful new ideas and establish social connections that didn’t exist before, a specialized information sharing platform is still law enforcement’s best intelligence tool to assess threats and fight crime.

Captain Stephen G. Serrao (New Jersey State Police,  retired) is Director of Product Management, Americas Region, for Memex, Inc. Serrao can be reached at steve.serrao@memex.com.

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