@TheCustodySgt is a well-respected police tweeter and blogger. He is, of course, a Custody Sergeant and has 6,000 followers on Twitter.

He also runs a well-established, thoughtful and thought-provoking blog called The Custody Record.

The Sarge does all this anonymously and very successfully. When he was interviewed on Radio 4 recently about the impact of public expenditure cuts on policing, his views were voiced by an actor to preserve this anonymity.

He kicks off my new series “Why I tweet” which features a range of police and probation Tweeters and asks them to describe in their own words why they tweet, how they and their organisations benefit, plus any tips or potholes to avoid.


Why I tweet

Why do I tweet? I had been on BookFace for a while and had dipped my toe into twitter but simply didn’t get it. I said to friends on BookFace.. “I don’t get it. I can do all I can do on twitter on here and more”. In some regards that was true. However, I eventually wearied of the BookFace experience and whilst surfing one day I stumbled across the blog of tweeter @responseplod

This got me thinking and I thought I’d give it a go. Blogging and tweeting went together like children and mess so I set up a blog and created a twitter profile with my now well known name @thecustodysgt I chose to be anonymous because I was aware of many of the pitfalls of being a police officer using social media and also wanted to have a little protection for me and my family. It also allowed me a little flexibility to tweet more honestly. Rather an odd paradox that I act in secrecy to be more honest and open!

It quickly became apparent to me that tweeting was fun. Secondly I was meeting some very interesting people. Some good people on twitter that I basically stumbled across became friends and held my hand as I stepped into this world. I now wouldn’t be without it. One of the best tips I got came from @defencegirl who told me “You get out of it exactly what you put in”. This proved to be very true. I have put a lot of effort into my account and blog and I like to think my follower list is a small testimony to that.

The best things

The best thing by far about tweeting is the people. I have chatted with some wonderful people. I look forward to meeting some of them in the next week or so in London before the police protest march. Chatting and possibly meeting some wonderful people I otherwise would never meet is an amazing opportunity. As a police officer and blessed with a good following means I can engage with people about policing matters and pass messages about police work but without some of the “corporate spin”. I like to think my tweets have a personal touch. Linking up with many people from other sectors and reading their blogs gives me a massive opportunity to broaden my knowledge and understanding of the bigger picture which is vital in todays multi-agency workplace.

The worst

The downside is now and again you attract a “troll”. I have learnt that the only way to really deal with a troll is either never reply.. or reply and give them a chance. It soon becomes apparent if rational debate is impossible. This is the point to leave and ignore.

What I and my organisation get out of Tweeting

Whilst there may be organizational benefit from my tweets my own employer gets no direct benefit because I am not affiliated to them directly. The combined national forces though, I hope, get some benefit from the messages I spread. One of the primary drivers is to show that as a police officer I am human. I have feelings, sensitivities and passions that are not always apparent in media reporting.

I’ve been lucky so far. I never began tweeting to embarrass my employer and use it as a soapbox of criticism. I hope that my employer would be pleased to find out that @thecustodysgt was actually one of their staff. I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve had the odd disagreement along the way but nothing worth getting upset about. But in many ways this was me finding my feet and learning as I went. Overall the major lessons learnt are;

  1. Think before you tweet
  2. Never tweet or blog when angry

Other than that the experience is one I never imagined it to be. I now tentatively look forward to possibilities for employment in the social media field now and in the future that had never crossed my mind before.

Next week: @ZoeStaffsGMPT on tweeting as a front-line probation officer.


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