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Irene Curtis is newly elected President of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales


Twitter as police scanner

Twitter is so many things for me. It’s an opportunity to be me, to have serious debate or a laugh, to share the silliest of experiences, and also the most serious of thoughts. It’s a great scanning tool where I can pick up important information that helps me do my job better, and it can also be an escape from work. I truly believe that Twitter can be whatever you want it to be.


Lurking with intent

I first joined Twitter several years ago, just out of curiosity and purely as a ‘lurker’, but didn’t really know anyone else using it or who the right people were for me to follow. It certainly wasn’t a well known means of communication in policing circles at that time.

I also had a locked account as, having been a former head of Professional Standards, I was wary of the risks of social media – probably too wary on reflection! This meant people didn’t engage with me as they do now.

Then I discovered that the best way to find good people to follow, was to find someone I liked and look to see who they were following – I quickly started to follow lots of interesting people and suddenly my timeline was filling up more quickly than I could view it!

Unlocking the potential of Twitter

But I was still only a ‘lurker’ and didn’t do my first tweet until one day when @roamingroyston convinced me that it would be painless, and that I might even enjoy it! He was right, and I’ve never looked back! I unlocked my account and since then have found a whole new world of friends, colleagues and others who fit into neither category, but who I find interesting to interact with, or sometimes just watch from a distance. And for me that’s the beauty of Twitter. You can have total control of your timeline, choosing who you want to follow – and if you find someone offensive or boring, you just stop following them!


IC 2011


Everyone’s timeline is unique

What amazes me is that out of the millions of Twitter accounts in the world, I’m guessing that there aren’t two with the same timeline.

My next challenge was how to manage my timeline better, particularly as I wanted to follow more and more people, but unfortunately have a day job that means that I can’t be watching tweets all day long! I follow two pieces of advice that help me with this.

Firstly @openeyecomms introduced me to lists. Using lists is great when you are dipping in and out of Twitter and short of time as it enables you to focus just on tweets from individuals in certain categories that you’ve created. I still don’t use them properly and now that I’ve taken over as President of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales (PSAEW) I intend to use them more, especially as I will be trying to run both the @policesupers account and keep my personal @barrackslass account.

 Twitter is like a drink at the pub

The second tip came from @PME200 at a time when I was becoming a bit obsessive about Twitter and trying to read every single tweet in my timeline in case I missed something important or interesting. Peter tweeted that he treated Twitter like a pub, and popped in and out when it suited him, dipping in and out of conversations. I find I’m much more relaxed now about what I might have missed, and if I improve my use of lists, this should get even better!

So as both Twitter and I have matured over recent years, I’ve come to realise that it can enhance my life, both personally and professionally, but also be a hindrance.

I’ve met some wonderful people that I would never had known if it hadn’t been for Twitter, I’ve learned lots of things that have improved my knowledge of policing in its widest sense. It helps me keep my feet on the ground and help me to understand how some officers are being affected by the current police reforms – this is particularly important for me as I work full time as a staff association representative now and you can quickly become out of touch.

And in addition to what I get out of Twitter, it’s also a great means of communication for me both personally, and in terms of my role. The PSAEW used to issue many press releases that never really saw light of day as they just didn’t interest the mainstream media so our voice often wasn’t heard, but with Twitter, we are able to issue our thoughts directly, not only to our thousands of followers, but with the re-tweets we get, to thousands of others too. And when combined with the number of Superintendents and Chief Superintendents who are now active on Twitter, I think that the voice of senior operational leaders of the police service is now heard far and wide.

However, despite all these benefits, I do know that if I don’t manage my time properly on Twitter it can, at times, take over my life! I do have to be careful that it doesn’t distract me from doing important pieces of work, or from spending time with my husband, who describes himself as a Twitter Widower (he still doesn’t get it!)

So if you haven’t entered the world of Twitter yet, then go on, be brave and give it a try. You never know, you might like it!


This is the 40th  post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.


If you’d like to develop your tweeting skills, check out my online Twitter coaching service which includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.


One Response

  1. Agree completely. As a newcomer I love the speed of communication and the diversity of topics to explore. Being able to gain insight from the front line perspective is crucial and illuminating and gives a better understanding. Freedom to explore and learn new ideas can only benefit all who try this media.

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