A post-doctoral research study on law enforcement and social media

Which police officer wouldn’t want social media? We only need to read through this blog to come across example after example of how social media benefit police practices: from relationship building with communities to garnering citizen support in investigations to new ways to inform or collect evidence. Still, I realized this is not a rhetorical question.

In the last two years, my colleagues in the COMPOSITE project and I conducted hundreds of interviews with police officers throughout Europe, amongst other things about their attitudes towards social media – and we were surprised by the variation in attitudes, acceptance, and ultimately extent of usage we found across police officers. Many were openly enthusiastic, such as one UK community officer about Twitter: “It’s just one of these tools that no one expects to have that much of a positive effect … You just need to hit as many people as you can, and this is the only way to do it. This is the only way I can guarantee that I can speak to 520 people every day”. In other countries police officers were rather critical, because they feared “to lose control” over their interactions with the public or simply didn’t “trust private companies like Facebook and Twitter with my data”. Confronted with practices in other forces – for instance experiments with Skype and 3D-video links in the Netherlands as replacements for the reporting of minor crimes in person (Click here for a demonstration in Dutch) – raised eye brows and incredulous shaking of the head were very common reactions.

These differences in acceptance and practices are not only of academic interest. Many police forces worldwide are currently implementing or planning to implement social media. What are the reactions they can expect from their officers? Moreover, international collaborations can run into problems, if specific practices and the acceptance of these practices collide.

But what are the factors that influence, whether police officers are willing to use social media in their work or not? At the moment, we lack a good answer. To find an answer we currently started an online study into social media use and acceptance in police forces. Our main objectives are to better understand what influences the degree of acceptance of social media use by police officers, and in this context obtain a better overview of the current use of social media across countries.

Yet, to make this study a success, I need your support! Therefore:

Please participate.
The survey is online and can be filled out anonymously. This will take about 8-10 minutes. We are looking for broad participation – including officers that already use social media in their work and those who do not. (We are interested in personal opinions, so even if you have no personal experience with social media, as long as you have an opinion on the topic, please take part!)

The survey is accessible online: http://erim.3uu.de/uc/pbayerl/83ec/ [8-10 minutes]

More information about who runs the study and the use of the data can be found below.

Many thanks for your support!

Background information on the study
Who runs this study?
The study is conducted in the context of the COMPOSITE project, which is an EU-funded research project on organizational changes in European police. The study itself is led by Dr. P. Saskia Bayerl at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Netherlands.

How will we use the data?
We are bound by strict rules about data protection and security concerning the handling and storage of information. This means that data will only be accessible by the principal investigator, and that all data will only be used for academic purposes. The data we collect is anonymous, i.e., we will not ask for any information that can be traced back to an individual officer.

Where will you hear about the results?
You will be able to read about the results here on ConnectedCops.
The COMPOSITE project: COMPOSITE (“Comparative Police Studies in the EU”) is an international, interdisciplinary research project for the comparative study of organizational change in police forces across Europe. The project is partially funded by the European Commission in the context of the FP7-program. This four year project started in August 2010 and involves fifteen research partners from ten countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Macedonia, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The fifteen participating organizations include universities, business schools, police academies, technical research institutes and consultancy organizations. Moreover, twenty-five police forces from the participating countries are actively involved in the research and support us in translating academic research results into the implications for police practice.

P. Saskia Bayerl (short biography): Dr. Petra Saskia Bayerl is a post-doctoral researcher at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Netherlands. She received her PhD from Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (2010; Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering). She further holds master degrees in Psychology (MSc, Giessen University, Germany), Linguistics (MA, Giessen University) and Organizational Dynamics (MA, University of Oklahoma, USA). In the past she has done research on participative leadership in US police forces and on the impact of changing information and communication technologies on team work in the offshore oil industry. Since 2010 she is member of the EU-funded project “Comparative Police Studies in the EU” (COMPOSITE, www.composite-project.eu). Her current research focuses on the link between technological and organizational change with a special emphasis on social media, the role of identity and leadership in the organizational change process, as well as online impression formation and management.

Dr. P. Saskia Bayerl
Rotterdam School of Management
Erasmus University
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062 PA Rotterdam
The Netherlands
Email: pbayerl@composite.rsm.nl