Digital Social Media and the rise of the multi-million pound service providers Twitter and Facebook have provided the fastest growing communications medium ever known, enabling millions of people and groups to connect in a way and at a pace never before known.
With the Social Media Revolution well underway many Police Forces and Police Crime Commissioners have embraced it with varying degrees of skill and enthusiasm and a plethora of Social Media policies are circulating among various Police Forces.
The College of Policing has also issued guidelines on the principles of on-line engagement on its Authorised Professional Practice site.
Nevertheless lessons are still being learned and errors made. Responses to breaches of policy and transgressions still vary between Police Forces and the lessons are as much for Senior Managers and Professional Standards as they are for those involved.
There is still much progress to be made in connecting with and supporting community social media groups with massive untapped engagement and feedback available. Many community groups are unregulated but still deserve engagement with the Police.
Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire Police have recently been working together to understand and respond to the needs of their communities by using social media monitoring tools. These tools and algorithms are designed to pick up on key words and are enabling Forces to quickly identify issues emerging on social media by understanding the policing issues that people are talking about online. One of the many ways police can learn how to best engage with these communities to positively impact on public confidence in the police.
Currently the Police Service is facing a large increase in Social Media related activity.
A survey of a small force Command and Control records for one year in 2011 recorded 14,000 references to the term Facebook. In 2012 it grew to 17,000 and in 2013 it was 27,000.
Whilst this does not equate with individual cases, it shows the dramatic growth in the use of SM in policing cases. These calls for service range from abuse online, identity of property through to just identifying people.
Officers and staff need to know how to deal with SM, both for investigations and for its core purpose of engagement.
This extra demand, if not managed properly, will substantially disrupt major ambitions to keep police visible on the streets. Where Call Centres direct officers to minor issues that could be handled in other ways, the Force will be making poor use of its most valuable resources, its people.
The 4Policing Group can support you in the development or revision of your strategies and SM Policies and completely enhance your digital engagement. During the input sessions on the Police and Social Media at the recent Strategic Command Course 2014 for Senior Police Leaders, one of the 4Policing teams Directors, Mike Pannett, was included as one of the most influential and ‘followed’ unofficial police commentators on Twitter. His Social Media commentary has led to dozens of mainstream TV and Radio interviews on high profile Police related matters. The 4Policing team can bring this huge level of experience to benefit your organisation.
Director Stuart Hyde QPM, is the former ACPO lead on CyberCrime and Vice President for the Society for the Policing of Cyberspace.
He is also the Vice President of the HTCC The Hi Tech Crime Consortium