In several police departments in the Netherlands community policemen are using Twitter to communicate with citizens. Community policemen are in that way taking citizens with them in their daily work. With their short messages they can send actual information including photo’s, video’s, location and links.
Twitter is offering two way communication. It is not only sending the tweets, but above all it is offering the opportunity to get in the conversation. Citizens can easily tweet simple incidents and request for contact for different cases. Community policemen can react realtime when they are on duty. Contact between citizens and police is fast en short. Recognizability of the community policemen increases.
What are they tweeting about? They are tweeting about their daily work, giving information on local points of interest and they are advising about crime prevention. In their tweets they can ask for information and witnesses of crimes. They can ask citizens to help them solve crimes or find back missing children.
This gives citizens an insight in the variety of tasks of a community policemen. Community policemen using twitter are getting a lot of positive reactions from citizens. It gives community policemen acknowledgement for the police profession.
Citizens know about the tweeting policemen through the attention in media like local papers or newsletters. Widgets with the twitter stream of the community policemen are placed on local news sites and blogs. Citizens that are visiting the local news sites who are not familiar with Twitter can in this way be introduced to this new way of communication. Citizens who are already on twitter are starting following the policemen, others decide to start using twitter to be able to follow or get in contact with their community policemen. In this way citizens are getting more familiar with their community policemen and it often than easier to get in contact.
Besides the easy way to get in contact with citizens in their own community, Twitter makes it possible for community policemen to get in contact with community policemen in other communities.
Tweeting community policemen are still a novelty. Most community policemen have to get used to interact with citizens using Twitter. It’s not only the unfamiliarity with the use of new techniques like a smartphone, but also a change of culture.
The introduction Twitter in community policing must be carefully prepared. Adequate training and guidance are important conditions for tweeting community policemen. Both policemen and citizens should be well informed about the do’s and dont’s when using Twitter.
In the Netherlands at this moment 48 community policemen are using Twitter.
Bas Slutter and Peter de Boer are community policemen using twitter in the police department Hollands Midden. Bas started using twitter in september 2009. Peter started a little later. In september 2010 there will be 10 more community policemen on twitter.
In November 2009 police department Groningen started an experiment with Twitter. There are at this moment more then 30 community policemen using twitter. Police chief Erik van Zuidam was tweeting that there will be maybe 150 community policemen using twitter in the police department in 2012.
John Elskamp is the most enthusiast community policemen using social media in the police departement Noord-Oost Gelderland. His collegues are on Twitter, John has its own blog and is on the friendsnetwork Hyves.
In the police pepartment Utrecht there are 6 community policemen using Twitter.
There are three policemen tweeting in the police department Midden en West Brabant.
In Friesland community policemen Gerard Willemse is on Twitter.
The police department Amsterdam-Amstelland is going to start a pilot with twittering community policemen.
Marga Van Rijssel has worked for the Dutch Police since 1992 in Information Management and Human Resource Management. She is passionate about the Internet, Web 2.0, Social Media and connecting people especially in the field of Law Enforcement. She is the Online Community manager and strategist at Politie 2.0.; the Dutch Police’s online community built on the Ning platform. The goal of the community is to share knowledge about the police, intelligence and the complex ICT dossier. The theme of the community is “We know more than I”. @libel | Website: Politie 2.0