Police Leadership & Social Media

This evening at the Strategic Command Course we had a debate with @nickkeane @dcctayside @accsarahhamlin and others on the police adoption of social media and the role of leadership. On the back of this I thought I’d share a few experiences of getting support for something that others may perceive as risky.

First, social media touches all aspects of policing and in my view should be led by a senior police leader and not just left to corporate communications colleagues. Our early plan, if you can call it that, which was developed in a working group of keen and interested people, had the following areas:

– Communications
– Community Engagement
– Investigation
– Intelligence
– Operations
– Internal

Soon afterwards we were supported by colleagues from Professional Standards, to help mitigate some of the risks, ICT to support our technical ambitions, Learning & Development to help us get new skills out into the organisation, and more recently Finance to help us develop plans for investment.

The working group had representatives from all of these areas and more, including local practitioners and some new joiners to the organisation who had previous skills and experience. The group continues to change in composition and we’ve recently debated, as the meetings were growing big and long, splitting into a Steering Group to handle the planning and investment, and the Working Group to generate new ideas, give sound advice and spread good practice.

Good progress has been made on the communications side, which can been seen if you compare Surrey Police’s presence and use on social media now to what is was only 12 months ago. Likewise on community engagement, the policing in your pocket style mobile phone app is now County wide. On investigation we are starting to make progress, but in truth this has been more difficult, partly because the risks are higher. Intelligence is a fascinating area, which could be the subject of another blog and we have a big push now on getting operational coverage of social media 24/7 – easy to say, but not easy to achieve.

Finally, I’ve always been keen on keeping the internal use on the agenda, not least because new joiners to policing are familiar with social technologies and it can be, in my view, a big boost for our co-ordiation, collaboration and productivity.

Which brings me to the role of leadership. The point was made by colleagues this evening that someone needs to set the tone, give support and help people to be interested and progressive in their use of social media, whilst at the same time getting good advice from experts on how to manage some of the risks. I agree, but I’d be interested in your views too?

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2 responses to “Police Leadership & Social Media

  1. I think your final point about leadership is absolutely key: In the fast flowing and ever morphing world of social media there are going to be blind alleys, reactionary elements (eg at a public order conference in a large force the commander washed social media out of the plan with “it was going to solve all our problems”) and vested interests so strategic and tactical leadership is key to efficient integration of the kit, the development and the staff.

    A further example of social media in crime fighting: today a warrant was executed where a twitter contact advised police of ASB and fears of drug supply. This information and the supporting statements for a crack house closure were only available from an engagement via twitter that has spanned several years.

    Social Media is not necessarily a quick fix but like any relationship between police and public it has to be worked/built upon and those ‘personal’ qualities of honesty, trustworthiness and integrity are key requirements for public confidence.

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