When P.C. Scott Mills delivers presentations to students on behalf of the Toronto Police Service, he finishes by encouraging his audience members to “friend” him on Facebook. Students initially are incredulous to this. Meeting an authority figure who understands the social media tools of their generation is a rarity. Moreover, Mills communicates openly and sincerely about the kinds of issues they consider important.
As an experienced high school teacher, I have seen my share of guest speakers, motivational talks, and educational lectures. The number of Facebook friends on Scott’s FB account isn’t about popularity as much as it is a test to see how many students he reached on any particular day. Some of these FB connections are really quite compelling, especially when one sees the kind of impact Scott is capable of making on some of the most hard-to-reach youths.
I have known Scott in a professional capacity for several years, meeting him for the first time after one of a talk about one of his passions: legal graffiti. Some neighbourhood kids had defaced the garage of my childhood home and I wasn’t prepared to listen to anyone talk so passionately about why the city needed opportunities for graffiti artists.
By the end of the talk, I was a convert.
This is not the first time that Scott has taken down fences in order to get the dialogue started with someone who is angry, skeptical, and cynical. Want to read an amazing story about a highly unlikely friendship? Have a look at #HomelessJoe which is attached to numerous tweets documenting @graffitibmxcop’s history with “HomelessJoe.”
Not convinced that Scott embraces the idea of legal graffiti and knows how to be an intergenerational voice to youth? Just ask @wellandgood, @bubzart, @artofphade, @kalmplex, and @schoolofhustle what they think of @graffitibmxcop. Think that the BMX is just a ruse? @heidibezanson and @torontobmx would have something to say about that.
Scott is certainly a game-changer when it comes to law enforcement and social engagement. A prolific proponent of social media, he is a frequent user of Facebook and Twitter as crime prevention tools as well as a means to canvass for leads after an occurrence.
At other times, Tweets may be an alert about a missing person, a warning about break-ins or perhaps just a shout-out for individuals who are mentoring young people in the community at a BMX bike park, fitness program, or art and design workshop.
Scott has logged what must amount to thousands of contact hours on social media and this activity indicates not only a strong presence online but also comfort in using these tools as part of modern day policing.
In addition to talks to the education community, he has delivered numerous in-service professional development sessions to colleagues, teaching them how to integrate Twitter and Facebook into day-to-day policing and how to remain mindful of the kind of impact officers can make with their own online presence.
Scott has also been one of those essential voices of the Toronto Police Service, willing to listen and also proactive about effecting change that leads to an improvement in services or policy. One of the reasons why I will be nominating him for a Shorty Award is because I will be forever in awe of how Scott is able to use his communication skills and gift in diplomacy to engage and often win over individuals who are skeptical about the police.
The police might have been the original street corner politicians but Scott Mills is definitely the mayor of social media.
Note: If you would like to vote for Scott Mills for the #lifesavinghero Shorty award, click here and fill in the form.