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.
Earlier 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. 😉