Cambridgeshire Police Authority to Consider Tweeting


Friday, September 9th, 2011. 1:48am


Screenshot from meeting papers

At a meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority’s Scrutiny Committee to be held on Monday the 12th of September 2011 proposals for the authority to start tweeting are to be considered.

A report to the committee titled : Agenda Item 14 – Police Authority Use of Social Media – Twitter has been published in advance of the meeting (PDF).

The report contains proposals for how the authority might use a Twitter account, this section states:

The following topics could form the basis of potential tweets: promotion of press releases with links to our website; re-tweet of APA news headlines or Cambridgeshire Constabulary good news stories; links to surveys hosted on authority and force websites and then links to the survey results; advertisement of engagement events and authority meetings; updates on Police and Crime Commissioner elections; collaboration news and ICV/ staff recruitment

The intent appears to be to use the Twitter account as a broadcast medium rather than a means of engagement and two way communication.

As I don’t think this is the right approach to be taking, and there are a number of other ways in which I think the report and proposals are lacking I am intending to use the opportunity to submit public questions or statements to police authority meetings to make the following points:

  1. I would like to suggest using Twitter for two way communication, not just for broadcasting information and for re-tweeting as proposed.
  2. I suggest close collaboration with the @CambsCops twitter account so that key tweets made by the authority get re-tweeted to what, at least at first, will be a wider audience.
  3. The fact this report is required, and the relevant officers have not felt able to just go-ahead and start tweeting suggests to me there is far too much bureaucracy, inflexibility and lack of encouragement of innovation within the police authority.
  4. The statistic given of 46% of UK Twitter users being under 35 is of limed use without relating this to the proportion of the force area’s population under 35 if the aim is to determine if Twitter particularly represents an opportunity to target a particular demographic.

    Based on data from the Office of National Statistics I calculated that the of the population of Cambridgeshire 43.7% is under 35, for Peterborough the figure is 47.3%, and for the two combined (the Cambridgeshire Police force area) it is 44.5% ( Calculated from Table 9 of the Office for National Statistics’ Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2010 Population dataset. )

    The suggestion inferred from the figure in the report, that Twitter particularly “allows the Police Authority to engage with the younger demographic” does not appear to be supported by the evidence given. In fact the evidence provided (which I note there is no citation for in the report) actually appears to suggest that Twitter users reflect the age demographic of the force. The 46% figure appears to have been derived from a poll of just 200 people carried out by YouGov for Prospect magazine. (1,2).

  5. The report is written in such away which presumes the members of the committee may be so completely out of touch with the modern world that they may not be aware of Twitter. If the report has been pitched at the right level, this too is alarming, and I suspect highlights problems with the way members of the authority are appointed.
  6. I suggest the account should be used for publicly lobbying, and engaging, with local MPs such as @JulianHuppert, as well as bodies with a role relating to policing and crime nationally such as @the_npia , @CPSUK, @ukhomeoffice , @MoJGovUK , @PoliceChiefs and others. Locally I suggest engaging with local councils and other public service organisations.
  7. I suggest members of the police authority should be encouraged to tweet individually. This could address the problem of many of them having such a low public profile and being hard to contact directly. The police authority should maintain a “Twitter list” of such tweeting members (only @ShonaFJ at the moment as far as I know), and include Twitter links on members’ profiles on the authority website.
  8. I would suggest the Twitter account, and other social media accounts, be handed over the office of the elected police commissioner should the transition to a new system for holding the purse strings and holding the police to account be completed.
  9. Where an agenda item at a Police Authority meeting has generated significant discussion on Twitter or other social media authority I suggest authority officers should report a summary of points made to the meeting.
  10. The authority should display its twitter feed, and perhaps replies and mentions, on its webpage.
  11. The authority should prepare itsself to be more responsive to new communications trends in the future, including being prepared to get off twitter and invest efforts elsewhere should users start moving to other communications media.
  12. I suggest the authority adopt a consistent username across social media sites and the web, perhaps one which corresponds with the cambs-pa.gov.uk domain name the authority uses. CambsPA would be in-line with usernames used by others eg. @SurreyPA , @LancsPA , @SussexPA ,@WarwickshirePA ,@LincsPA and many more. Registering such a name, or names would have been advisable in advance of this public discussion. I would suggest using more formality than has been adopted by the force and not using “CambsCops Authority” or similar and would be happy to hand the @CambsPA and @Cambs_PA twitter accounts to the authority.
  13. I dispute the claim in section 3.6 of the report that information provided via the @CambsCops twitter feed was reassuring or accurate during the national disorder in August 2011. Information on the, relatively minor, disorder in Cambridge was not provided in real time and queries as to why the force helicopter was present over the Midsummer Common area at the time of the incident did not receive an immediate reply. My personal confidence in the feed as a source of reliable and timely information was diminished, not enhanced, over that period.

One interesting element of the report I noted was a section stating:

The public also sent many messages of support and appreciation to the force through Twitter. These have been used to create displays in canteen areas at HQ and on division for officers and staff.

12 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police Authority to Consider Tweeting

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Hmm the Association of Police Authorities has blocked me from following them on Twitter:

    Error message saying I'm blocked by AssocPoliceAuth

    Police Authorities need reform, they should engage and not stick their fingers in their ears.

  2. Ganesh Sittampalam

    There’ll be e.g. 1 year olds included in the total count of people under age 35, whereas I doubt there are any real 1 year old twitter users! You probably need to find statistics from e.g. age 15-35 to get a fair comparison.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Hi Ganesh,

    I agree with that; but also thought there are a lot of quite young people on Twitter and engagement from the police does matter at a really young age. Still the broad point still stands that there are lots of older Twitter users and Twitter users are not particularly badly skewed towards older, or younger, people.

    I suspect other police engagement routes eg. neighbourhood panel meetings do attract a disproportionate fraction of older people.

  4. Tom Womack

    I agree that the CambsCops messages during the disturbances in August were inconsistent with what turned out from later newspaper reports actually to have happened, which makes me disinclined to trust them in future – in particular I can’t tell whether they didn’t tell Julian what was happening, or actually told him things which weren’t so.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    During the committee’s consideration of the twitter item, Member Nic Williams revealed she tweeted and followed @CambsCops

    While looking for her twitter feed I came across her LinkedIn profile.

    http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/nic-williams/9/869/a44

    Most notable is the fact she consistently writes freelance as two words: “free lance”. Looking beyond that though – she has been a director of Norfolk Common Purpose, and “Navigation Director” of Common Purpose. She writes:

    Prior to running the Navigator programme I led the Matrix training programme in Norfolk

    Common Purpose is thought by many to be a highly sinister organisation, see for example this video.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve looked through those twitter accounts which follow @CambsCops and the following are those with names of Nic, Nicky and similar:

    I cannot see one corresponding to Nic Williams, though NicaPopa is a candidate.

    Nic Williams does have a twitter account in the name of Inspiring Partnerships either.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    Nic Williams’ company “INSPIRING PARTNERSHIPS (UK) LIMITED” was dissolved and struck of the company’s register on the 20/07/2010.

    Williams’ Biography on the Police Authority website states:

    She runs a company specialising in event management and leadership training.

    This could be a new company, or the biography could be out of date.

    The company records show her name as:

    “NICOLA JANE WILLIAMS”

    This corresponds with the name associated with the NicaPopa twitter account, so I’m now reasonably sure that’s her and have tweeted towards it to ask. However there are no tweets on that account and Nic Williams told the authority meeting that she tweeted.

    I think it’s really important we know who the people responsible for oversight and strategy for our local police are.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    I think it’s really important these people, who are responsible for our police force, are identified, information about them is full, clear and honest and that they are easy to.contact and communicative.

    They should not be allowed to operate in the shadows.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    The police authority have joined twitter. Their first tweet was at around midday on the 29th of November 2011

    They are: @PACambs

    One of their first RT’s was by @nickypoppet who I presume is the authority member who goes by Nic Williams and similar names. Her twitter timeline includes a statement saying she has been inside the Cambridgeshire Police Authority office.

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