Balance Your Bobbies, policing and social media.

www.north-wales.police.uk/balanceyourbobbies is a really simple way that people living in North Wales can help their police force set local priorities for neighbourhood policing. You are given a choice of priorities (set by the public) and then able to assign resources to them. The priority that averages the greatest amount of support where you live gets turned into a job for the local police.

It’s an extension of the idea of Neighbourhood Tasking, where police and public meet to set priorities.

Ian Davies – the Programme Director for Citizens Focus in the force – explains how it works and how he hopes it will help.

I met Ian last week at a hugely encouraging event organised by West Midlands Police, the Police Improvements Agency and the Association of Chief Police OfficersNick Keane, Mark Payne and Gordon Scobbie brought together a small group from various police forces with some social media specialists, including Podnosh, Talk About Local and MyPolice (worthy winner of this years Sicamp in Scotland).

I have to say I am very proud of how open West Midland’s Police is embracing the possibilities of social media.  They have been ahead of many forces with early use of podcasting in the form of Plodcast,  getting officers using  Facebook, widespread us of Youtube and Twitter. More importantly they are impatient to learn and, I think, willing to accept mistakes along the way.

Assistant Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie was keen to stress that different forces should learn from each other as quickly as possible.  I think he was hinting at a competitive between forces which would be best set aside, instead collaborating to make good use of social media.

The web itself sets the example for this.  Why sit in a darkened room invesnt a who new governance policy about social media (should you need such a thing) when others have already shared there’s: www.socialmediagovernance.com.

He also recognises the potential culture clash between an organisation structure around control and the problem that the web can’t be controlled in the same sense.

Chief Inspector Mark Payne and I first met properly when we both spoke at an Association of Police Press Officers event in June.  Last week his first blog post threw a challenge out to all the forces in the country:

Nobody is going to be confident in an organisation who they don’t hear from, and who they can’t engage with.

Why then are many police forces so reticent to engage in social media? I have spoken to people involved in policing up and down the country, and I am genuinely amazed at the real fear that there seems to be around blogs, Twitter and Facebook. We are still in the position where the majority of Forces do not have a meaningful web presence.

I have a theory that people have become a little bit seduced and scared by the technology involved in social media. In my experience though, there are no dark secrets associated to the web, IT IS JUST ANOTHER FORM OF COMMUNICATION!

One of the other people there was PC Ed Rogerson of North Yorkshire Police. He tweets his job:

For him it’s a simple way of raising his visibility – people can see he’s working even though they can’t see him. It is all start on what might turn out to be a powerful new way of police relating to communities.

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