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NPCC social media recommendations harmful to engagement, says PCC


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Lincolnshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones, has said the closure of non-official police social media accounts is an "absolute error" that would undo years of public engagement.

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Date - 22nd June 2021
By - Chloe Livadeas

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Social Media and Digital Engagement, Surrey Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, has recommended forces streamline the number of social media accounts they have so the public can access information “in a clearer way”, meaning the closure of accounts run by individual officers.

The move to a more official presence on social media is in line with growing numbers who use it to check updates from forces and expect real-time reponses, the NPCC said.  

But PCC Jones said he’d like to see evidence of that and made the point that most force accounts are not monitored 24/7.

Today he tweeted: “At a time when public engagement by policing has never been more vital we are seeing the enforced closure of many ‘private’ or individually run SM accounts. This is an unintended consequence of wanting to provide a ‘better’ 24/7 public service. Urgent national review needed.”

He told Police Oracle those social media accounts give “a true feel of the fact that policing is run by human beings and actually having that personal interaction and insight – to lose that is an absolute error and I don’t think that what’s intended.

“So I think before we end up regretting the loss of a decade of engagement through twitter we really need to have another look at it.”

He said the pandemic had brought the relationship between the public and the police “into focus in a way that it just hasn’t been for a very long time” and helping people to “genuinely understand the human element in policing is vital”.

“Often we see in the media that they’re grouped together in a really unhelpful and homogenous way that undermines that understanding by our communities of what policing is and what people face 24 hours a day and the interaction you see across really good quality social media accounts helps break those barriers,” he said.

He says that as a PCC he has engaged with officers up and down the country and internationally thanks to Twitter.

“I would not be in direct contact with any number of people involved in policing – a police dog handler from Northumberland who is involved in something really interesting that leads me to ask questions locally – are we doing something similar?

“The richness that it provides and the insight and the questioning it provides is vital and I think to lose that is almost unquantifiable how big a loss it would be.”

He said the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the NPCC should work together to find a solution to policing’s presence on Twitter.

CC Stevens said: “Forces that have consolidated the number of accounts have seen more engagement not less, and in my own force we now have more contributors to the accounts creating a wider range of interesting content.  

He went on to say: “There is no requirement to adopt the model, but it has been developed by practitioners across the different disciplines and based on the experiences of forces that made the move early.  Individual forces will make decisions in consultation with communities about what works for them, and the desire is that all content creators are able to use digital communications as an effective part of day to day policing.”

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The "official" police accounts all seem so bland and uninteresting to me. It's like they are afraid of saying anything that could be taken the wrong way or out of context and as a result it makes for a very boring read. The reason I liked shows like Road Wars was that they seemed more real. I know they will also have cherry picked the most exciting stuff to show but it still felt you were getting a bit of a genuine insight into policing and the officers doing the job.

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2 hours ago, Equin0x said:

It's like they are afraid of saying anything that could be taken the wrong way or out of context and as a result it makes for a very boring read.

2 hours ago, Equin0x said:

but it still felt you were getting a bit of a genuine insight into policing and the officers doing the job.

It’s another ‘rock and a hard place’ with social media. It’s a place I avoid entirely given the patently obvious exacerbated mental health issues as a result. It’s a place where peculiar people visit to actively seek out the ‘offensive’ posts, report / calls for cancel and for them to be hung, drawn and quartered before any fair trial or hearing. Twitter is an absolute cesspit and should come with a mental health warning. 

Whilst often you’d get some engaging posts from personal job accounts, there have often been times when these posts go beyond that. Particularly when tweeting outside of duty hours. I do not know how many officers, nationally, who have been reprimanded because of its use, but I do know of plenty of cases from a small pool where this was the case. 

Additionally, numerous posts were beyond cringe. Daily selfies, filtered shots, hair done like Instagram models, “me me me” posts. Job Twitter accounts reminded me of someone between a sycophantic, egotistical ‘Oh aren’t I wonderful’ LinkedIn account, and some (lack of) personality from the Instagram platform. 

Thankfully, Twitter has dwindling numbers of users. Across all platforms, I recall reading that it was one of the lowest for interactions and average daily users. A lot of Police accounts were on there but, compared to the number of people in a city/town/village etc, it was incredibly low. It wasn’t a direct reach to people, but more media to screen grab comments and publish them which, as we know, is dangerous territory. 

Is social media really the answer to public engagement? Should it be? 

In a few years time, I’m hoping to see that the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et. al was just a crazy fad that lasted 2 decades and where peculiar made-up online armchair personalities return back to being human beings who are able to use their own minds, form their own opinions and conclusions, and be less sheep-like. 

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