PC Kate Parker is a Neighbourhood Policing Officer for Conwy, North Wales
Twitter for open dialogue
A big part of my role as a Police Officer is communication. It is vital that we maintain an open dialogue with the public, whether that be walking down the street and talking face to face (which I do regularly) or by using social media (again, which I do regularly).
I first became interested in using Twitter following the public disorder in the summer of 2011. I was struck by how social media played such a large role and how it was used by the Police.
We saw some excellent examples by some Forces, and also learned the lessons from others use (or lack of use) of the medium.
Sharing the working day
After a discussion with some experts in the field, and after following some already established Tweeting Cops, I approached my ACC and put forward a proposal regarding using Twitter as part of my community work and to share my working “day” with the public. He agreed.
I was asked to read and sign my force Social Media Policy – the rules of the game for me.
I have been criticised by some for being “corporate” and not getting involved in political or controversial subjects, I make no apology for that. My North Wales Police social media account is not the place to air those views.
Communicating the reality of modern policing
I have run my account for over 12 months now. I am delighted to see that North Wales Police have been fully supportive and have encouraged other officers to tweet on their behalf.
It gives us the chance to tell you the “good news” stories, to open people’s eyes to the things we actually do and the reality of modern policing.
I have shared experiences such as the satisfaction of really making a difference to people, and also sadness at having to break bad news.
I have shown the human face of policing.
Twitter to respond to emergencies
In April 2012 the cargo ship MV Carrier ran aground on the North Wales coast, resulting in the closure of the main truck road the A55. I was able to use Twitter to provide detailed updates on the rescue mission, and to keep the public informed.
I sent out safety messages and to notify road users of diversions and the road closures.
These were real-time updates and provided the opportunity for information to be disseminated immediately, and to minimise disruption.
The support I have received from the public and from followers has been great.
I have had to deal with some trolls as well though, whose primary aim is to abuse and insult.
On occasion I have had to block some accounts, but I do find that my own followers act as my defence.
Twitter helps develop partnerships
Another positive has been the fact that I have formed working partnerships with other agencies through Twitter, we have helped each other out with information and practical help.
I have collaborated with other Forces and have found that the shared learning offered by such contact has been very valuable.
I recently tweeted an appeal for information on dealing with dementia in the community and received many offers of help and direction.
Twitter has provided me with information that I need to carry out my work.
Looking at the bigger picture, I believe that we can use Twitter to build public trust and confidence in our Force, and in the service as a whole.
Twitter is an extremely efficient way of reaching a large number of people at no cost to the Force, a big selling point in these austere times.
A professional police Twitter presence
The police need a professional presence on Twitter. The public want us to be there, shown in the number of followers that forces and individual tweeting cops have. It has become part of the police corporate image to have an account, and this can only be a positive step forward.
Twitter breaks down barriers
One of the best things about being a Tweeting Cop is that I have managed to make contact with some really vulnerable members of my community, who would not pick up the phone or approach a police officer in the street, but feel comfortable using social media to communicate.
I have been able to help them and get them further assistance from other agencies, and start to build up a good professional relationship with them.
By being accessible to the public, you increase their participation in policing, reaching out to those who would not talk to you face to face or have never wanted to have communicate with their local police officer. It forms part of the full and sustained engagement with the community, which is so important.
I would encourage more police officers to use social media in their roles, if possible. I believe that it still has great potential and there is more for us to do and to learn.
Of course there are risks in allowing officers to use Twitter, but I am trusted to take away someone’s liberty when necessary, and so hope that I can be trusted with a Twitter account.
I use my common sense and before I send a Tweet, I imagine what my Chief Constable would say when he read it – I find that to be a really good yardstick on being appropriate.
This is the 36th 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.