In addition to heading Leicestershire Police, Simon is also the ACPO national lead on Mental Health and Disability, as well as the ACPO lead on Local Policing and Partnerships.
I have to confess that I first set up a Twitter account about 14 months ago because my Comms team told me to!
The main reason I agreed to start tweeting was a belief that it’s increasingly important for the modern police service to be as accessible to the public as possible and be as transparent about what we do and why we do it as we possibly can.
It was also a great way of demonstrating to all Leicestershire police that we really were keen for them to get on Twitter and engage with local people.
How I Tweet
I have to say straightaway that I’ve got so many benefits out of Twitter that I’ve had to make a conscious decision to restrict my access to it to make sure that it doesn’t interfere too much with the day job. I do my tweeting via a tablet and have resisted having Twitter on my phone because I know I’d find it too tempting not to engage in all the different debates.
I tend to Tweet in the morning about what my day holds in store and what Leicestershire police will be doing to address local concerns, and again at the end of the day about what has happened and how things have gone.
But by far the biggest and most important part of my tweeting is responding to comments and questions from a huge range of sources. It can sometimes be hard work to keep up with all the different Twitter conversations, but I think that it’s really important for the police to continue to encourage debate and discussion on how we go about our business. I think I’ve only ever blocked two tweeters because they kept up a barrage of constant criticism without wanting to engage in any discussion.
I do Tweet about my off-duty life as well and, although I’m careful about what I put into the public domain, I think, overall, it’s helpful for people to know that police officers are human too!
I can honestly say that the thing I like most about Twitter is that it’s so rewarding and entertaining. I find its eclectic nature fascinating – as well as all the people I follow in the course of my professional life, I keep up with people who Tweet about Bruce Springsteen, Philip Larkin ,LeicesterTigers… the list could go on.
It’s been my experience that there are many more tweeters who want to improve the world and make a positive contribution than there are trolls and naysayers.
I have found it particularly beneficial in developing partnerships with a wide range of voluntary agencies around the police’s work with people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Working relationships which started on Twitter have often been carried over into real life when I’ve had the chance to meet up at conferences and media events.
One of the other things that I really like about Twitter is that you can make an instant positive contribution. I’ve recently been able to move forward debates about Mental Health section 136 [the power that allows police to remove “mentally disordered people” to a place of safety] and Stop and Search by simply tweeting links to up-to-date research and changes in practice.
I’ve also found that Twitter is a brilliant way for crowdsourcing ideas. A few months ago I was due to give a presentation to an audience of medics on policing and mental health issues. I sent out two tweets: one asking iPlods what police issues I should be telling the medics about; and one asking medical tweeters what they wanted to know from the police. I got a terrific response and used several of the tweets in the actual presentation which I think made it much more useful since it directly addressed the concerns of front-line staff.
I have to say that apart from the risk of developing a Twitter obsession, I have found very few downsides.
I’d like to finish by recommending a couple of tweeters for you to follow:
@mentalhealthcop has done a fantastic job in transforming the debate around policing and mental health.
@Help4Rik_RT is a great local campaign run by one of our Inspectors to increase the number of Asian people registering as stem cell donors onto the Anthony Nolan database to help tackle leukaemia.
This is the 28th post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.
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