Whether it’s for particular events, like Climate Camp back in August, stations or individual policeman/women, the UK police force are evidently slowly but surely seizing the opportunity to connect with their public on a personal and approachable level.
One police officer in particular is taking his community and policing responsibilities to a broader reach by using the 140 character oriented social network. PC Ed Rogerson who patrols Starbeck, Harrogate has been on Twitter since October and has been using the service to spread advice, incidents and even on occasion, notification of arrests.
PC Rogerson pinpointed the problem of visibility they currently suffer from with the well documented levels of paper work that can keep them off the streets. “People do not see us so they do not think we are there,” he said.
Twitter though, can solve this problem, by connecting with individuals and the public in their area without the necessity of face to face contact and subsequently adds increased visibility to their policing. A good Twitter list for UK Police on twitter can be found here.
“Posting a message on Twitter warning about a spate of burglaries in an area is a similar concept to pinning up a poster on the local parish council noticeboard.” Tom Stirling, North Yorkshire’s web officer told the BBC.
As a method of communication, Twitter adds a real presence for Police forces and I see no reason why all of UK forces can’t adopt the channel as part of their community relations strategy. North Yorkshire police have reserved their spot on Facebook with a soon to be released group which will enhance this strategy county wide as well as having a Twitter account of their own.
From my point of view, the fact that organisations like the Police are only really beginning to integrate social media is a sign of how loosely adopted tools like Twitter and Facebook are being used in areas where they could offer real practicality.
A story hit this week that really epitomises the potential worth of social media in Police work, whereby by a woman attacked in a Watford nightclub took to Facebook to investigate the case after the Police failed to obtain any leads. The end result was the attacker being found on Facebook by the victim, identified in a line up and charged by the police.
If the UK public can use social media to solve crime, why can’t the Police?
With general confidence in policing and the Government not at a particularly great level, there’s no time like the current for them to use Twitter to engage with the people their representing and working for. It will be interesting to see how political parties in particular use the platform in the run up to next springs general election and social media as a whole.
As for Police, well for me it just makes sense and if i had it my way would have many more policemen/women that are regularly engaging with their community, on Twitter, doing just that. It will improve relations no end and make the Police probably as approachable as they’ve ever been before and add a touch of personality to the men in blue.