Following on from the previous post on Crime and Disorder update, Inspector Martin Goodwin, answered a question from Cllr Paul Deach about the use of social media by the police, and why he hadn’t written a post on his twitter account for 5 days.
The surprisingly open admission was that there’s much caution about its use by the Police, and that Martin thought he had neither the technical necessary infrastructure, nor support to develop a plan for it’s use.
The use of social media should be integral to the interaction between police and the public. It isn’t that one form of social media is more effective than any other, each have their roles, and should be part of a combined communication strategy with the public, be it general website, a dedicated website to a topic, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.
Post the 2011 riots the government produced a short brief on Smart Practices for Social Media in Emergencies. It’s a well prepared set of tips to help establish the effective use of social media by the Police and other first responders.
The document begins with these excellent summary points,
- Social media is a social medium for the people by the people about the people.
- Social media benefits emergency management as well as the public.
- Think before you leap and develop a strategy.
- One size does not fit all. Do your research.
- Preparedness is the most critical and difficult stage.
- Engage, interact, participate…don’t just broadcast.
- Understand the level of resource needed.
- Seek out promising practices and share them.
- Start small, fail early, learn often
Conversations from our Neighbourhood Police team to the public shouldn’t be a commentary on every crime or arrest. To do so would merely increase the fear of crime. The limitations of Twitter, only 140 characters per message, presents difficulties. These can be overcome when its value is fully recognised and endorsed.
Using social media helps bring the issues of policing closer to the public, and when used effectively creates a personal link between the police and the public they protect and serve.
Here are some links to social media and the police use of social media.
- Staffordshire Police use many local Twitter addresses and Facebook Pages
- Sussex Police social feeds
- New Scientist: Did police use Twitter effectively during the riots?
- Accenture Report: Are Police Forces Maximizing Technology to Fight Crime and Engage Citizens?
Comparing Staffordshire and Sussex to Surrey Police, it would seem that Surrey Police have work to do to make effective use of social media.