In our regional roundtables so far, we often hear that police need to find new ways to connect with the public and be part of the community. There are formal activities that already go on, from annual strategic planning processes to regular reports to council, but these processes aren’t designed for building personal relationships between officers and the rest of their communities. At the same time, we know that officers are already spending many personal hours participating in their communities, like sporting events, youth activities and charity events, on top of the fast-paced demands of their work day conducting enforcement.
A number of participants have suggested that police explore the potential of social media to give residents an idea of their day to day activities, to spread awareness about real versus perceived public safety threats and to seek feedback or tips from the public. In fact, Minister of Justice and Attorney General just gave a speech about that very subject to an audience of police communicators from around North America at COPCOM 2012! Check out how Port Moody is using Twitter to report on their calls as they receive them. Ever stood on the street corner, craning your neck to figure out what police were up to as they responded to an incident? If you live in Victoria, you can often rely on the VicPD Twitter to get real-time updates on what’s happening. The Abbotsford Police Department combines community partnerships, like Project BandAid with a lively presence on Twitter so that whether you see them face to face or in your newsfeed, you can see the positive roles they play in preventing crime and being leaders in their community. VPD has grown their Twitter audience from just 20 people at the beginning of 2011 to over 17,000, using it to provide timely updates to the public and opportunities to speak directly to Chief Chu. For example, during the Celebration of Lights last summer, they supplemented their physical presence with Twitter updates, providing immediate news about road closures, trouble spots and transit.