Mental illness is a hot topic in the news right now, thanks largely to mass killings, domestic violence and violence that doesn’t fit either of those narratives. While the stories help to highlight the overall topic — that mental illness is prevalent among our neighbors, coworkers and the strangers we pass each day — they don’t do much to help us understand deeper issues, such as how to recognize and then communicate with people who have mental illnesses.
This affects emergency services more than it does the rest of us, because police, fire and EMS personnel are usually the first on the scene during or after an incident. They often don’t know how to respond appropriately, for a variety of reasons. As a result, things can go very bad very fast. The subject gets hurt or killed, the cops look bad, and community trust is broken. It should follow that you can’t have an effective social media program if you don’t have effective communication to start with.
On Wednesday night, we explored some of these issues in #copchat. Mostly in order, the transcript follows below. Click “Read more” on the bottom right of each segment to continue.
In the monthly column I write for Officer.com, I’ve referred to Toronto police Sgt. Tim Burrows several times. Back when I joined Twitter in late 2008, Tim was just one of the very few sworn police officers tweeting and blogging with a pioneering eye toward building a community, a virtual extension of the one he actually served. Eventually, his activity — rare among police active in social media, though thankfully less rare now — became the seed (and later, the foundation) for the way Toronto Police Service implemented social media throughout its service.
I’ve often wished for a way to work directly with Tim on some project, and why I’m so pleased that after months of on-and-off talk, we’ve found it: #copchat, a new Twitter chat we’ll be cohosting on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern. Tim has posted more details on his Walking the Social Media Beat blog; one of the things I’m most excited about is the cross-section the chat represents between social media and technology use in general (including the digital forensics world I inhabit), and the chance to continue building a community that’s already pretty strong.
Join us next Wednesday night, 6/27 at 9 p.m. EDT. Use the #copchat hashtag through tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite or TweetChat. Everyone is welcome — and we look forward to learning as much from you as we hope you’ll learn from us!
A few months ago on Officer Radio, I told editor-in-chief Frank Borelli that police cell phones — both employer-issued and personal — can be discoverable during litigation. It was just a quick comment, and we didn’t get into much detail. But it came up on a listserv not long ago, and I think it’s worth exploring further this week.*
Are police cell phones really discoverable?
It should stand to reason that your work-issued device is discoverable. After all, the city, county or state owns it, not you. Even if the government has ok’d your personal use of the device, you have at best a limited expectation of privacy–so said the US Supreme Court nearly two years ago.
Thornier is when you use your personal device on the job. Whether for personal communication or professional reasons–taking pictures of evidence, or emailing a document to a supervisor–don’t expect it to stay between you and the recipient. It may, of course. But it may not if your agency is sued, or your actions become important in a criminal case.
In Phoenix, for instance, officers were investigated for showing a video slideshow of crime scene images at a holiday party–in violation of department policy, which stresses that “Officers who use personal equipment to record or take pictures at a scene or investigation to include potential evidence, witnesses, victims, or suspects, must understand the material is subject to discovery and must be impounded.”
The prosecuting attorney shall disclose to the defendant or his or her attorney all of the following materials and information, if it is in the possession of the prosecuting attorney or if the prosecuting attorney knows it to be in the possession of the investigating agencies…”
The law covers “All relevant real evidence seized or obtained as a part of the investigation… any exculpatory evidence… [and] relevant written or recorded statements of witnesses or reports of the statements of witnesses whom the prosecutor intends to call at the trial.” It also covers evidence that can affect witnesses’ credibility. And it doesn’t distinguish between agency-owned or personally owned property.
What you do on a mobile device is only part of the issue. The other part is your use itself. In other words, if you spend two hours every shift texting your significant other, what are you not doing during those two hours? Your agency may be less interested in the content of your messaging than the timeline it represents, as was the case in New Mexico in a 2005 DUI case.
The bottom line
Administrators: work with your supervisors to develop an acceptable use policy for both agency-issued and personal mobile devices. The policy should cover expectations of privacy and under what circumstances a search may be conducted. See the Americans for Effective Law Enforcement (AELE) February 2012 law brief, which goes into depth on the topic.
Line personnel: Use your personal cell phone or camera to record evidence only if it’s your sole available means of doing so. Otherwise,assume your mobile devices may be searched at any time, and remember it’s not always better to ask forgiveness (as opposed to permission).
It’s not unlike second-guessing your social media posts: always take a moment to consider whether the post is appropriate; never post when you’re drunk, tired or stressed; ask yourself whether you’d be comfortable with the photo (or tweet, or email) on the six o’clock news.
Does your agency have a policy on personal cell phone use on duty?
*I’ve been meaning to write this post since I did the Officer Radio show. However, between then and now, I was made an employee of a mobile forensic solutions provider I’d been contracting with. Since mobile forensics most definitely plays a role in the discovery of both criminal and civil evidence, a disclosure and disclaimer: both the decision to post and the opinions expressed are mine alone.
If you came to this blog by way of Twitter or Facebook, you know that for several months I’ve been using the Scoop.It bookmarking service to aggregate news items about how police are using high tech. One reason I like it: its magazine-style format is nicely laid out, easy to read and easy to digest. Monthly I pull out articles that seem to revolve around a few particular themes. This month: digital investigative techniques, and transparency through video and other content.
Digital investigative techniques
Should police receive training in low-level online crimes? The UK-based Commons Science and Technology committee thinks so. This kind of strategy, like “Broken Windows” for the online world, would encourage police to care about the small problems in order to help citizens feel cared about and willing to partner to stop bigger crimes.
Also consider whether you, even if you don’t consider yourself a “high tech” investigator, need to geolocate images from mobile phones. A good step-by-step procedure comes from digital forensic examiner Girl, Unallocated. Take the time to try it out for yourself, and think about robbery, stalking, and other cases you might need geolocation data for.
Data visualizations — graphs, maps, and so on — can be important in court; would you create them if you knew how? Pete Warden documents his methodology, a process he says came via trial and error. It includes choosing a question, sketching the presentation, crunching the data—and finding the surprises. (Don’t be afraid of surprises during an investigation. They mean you’re doing good work.)
Making police work more transparent
Dashboard and body-worn cameras are up for debate in Nevada after Henderson police were filmed striking a motorist in diabetic shock; unions want more say in their installation and use. But as the Las Vegas Sun noted, “The city of Seattle and its police department, facing accusations of excessive force, have been sued seeking release of video footage. The department has lost tens of thousands of videos, the station, KOMO-TV, reported.”
Technology doesn’t just provide citizens with a way to tell their own version of events, it gives police departments all over the country a reason to implement much-needed reforms that can improve transparency and public trust. This will make cops safer and their jobs easier.”
You can’t, obviously, be transparent about everything in police work… but online engagement is a start toward the kind of transparency that puts citizens at ease enough to listen to you. My January column for Officer.com discussed police departments as media platforms, and a related article from the Content Marketing Institute, “Creating Content that Serves Its Civic Duty,” provides several examples of government websites doing content right—encouraging public engagement.
As Luke Fretwell wrote just recently, “Creating sustainable, meaningful civic contributions to government” is hard to encourage much less measure. Yet government agencies can do it, as Cumbria (UK) police showed when they held a live webchat about Internet safety.
How are you communicating your agency’s use of high tech to the public?
Nearly a year ago, as I caught up on tweets following my talk at the Police Leadership Conference, a series of tweets caught my eye. They came from Sasha Taylor, Chair of the National Police Web Managers Group.
Sasha and I got into a good discussion about social media use in law enforcement, and although my work took me in a different direction last year, he stayed on my radar. Which was why I got back in touch with him a few weeks ago, when he tweeted about the upcoming Blue Light Camp: an “unconference” designed to discuss public safety best practices for social media.
The free, daylong event will take place on Sunday, April 15th from 9am to 5pm at Manchester Central exhibition centre—the day before British APCO’s annual event. It will focus in particular on social media use in times of unrest, drawing from UK experiences in 2011. Cops 2.0 talked further about it with Camp organizer Paul Coxon:
How does BlueLightCamp fill a hole in crisis-related discussions that other gov-related or police-related conferences left open?
BlueLightCamp is unique in that it is the first truly multidisciplinary emergency services unconference in the UK. Most other conferences would either be for the police authorities or the fire services or front-line healthcare or social care providers, to our knowledge no one has yet created an event that brought them all together. Sasha recognised that a lot of the conversations being had within the police and healthcare arenas cut across all Blue Light Services and there was learning that could be of benefit to all.
The other big difference about Blue Light Camp is that, aside from the sectors involved, we are not dictating who should attend and already we have an exciting mix of communicators, front-line workers, people in senior and strategic roles and even research scientists who have signed up to attend.
What about the “unconference” format do you feel will best facilitate the discussions you envision taking place?
I used to have a boss who loved going to conferences because, in his own words, it was an easy day were he didn’t have to do anything and could basically sleep. Unfortunately for a lot of people that is what conferences are about, but that’s not what an unconference is about. Unconferences will not work without everyone playing their part and for this reason they attract the type of people who want to engage around the topics.
The type of people who want to engage are the type of people that are likely to share their learning and experiences, the type of people who will lead positive change in their organisation and the wider sector, and that is what Blue Light Camp is about, creating the conversations that lead to positive change.
In addition to this, unconferences often take place out of work hours, those attending do so in their own time and at their own cost, which contributes to making them more willing to participate, network, share best practice and take away new ideas to their organisations/local networks.
Crisis management and mapping will be presented. Any other sessions you know of that are (at least roughly) planned?
The beauty of an unconference is you won’t really know the sessions that will be pitched until delegates begin pitching them, but we are hopeful to see examples of how 24-hour tweeting has worked for police service and council services, the ways in which Facebook and Twitter have been used to engage communities, metrics of SM channels, gamification are all topics discussed at other conferences.
People often discuss other areas of SM such as use of QR codes, Wikipedia, open data, blogging and general communications. We also have research fellows attending from the Disaster 2.0 project which is looking at use of social media during disasters and emergencies.
People come to unconferences to either share an idea or an experience so will lead a session for this reason; others will have barriers/questions that they would like discuss with others that have experienced the same issues or have the expertise to find a solution. Sharing at its best.
How many of your participants will also attend BAPCO, and what do you hope they will bring with them from BLC?
One of the perks of signing up with Blue Light Camp is membership of British APCO, who are our venue sponsors, we would hope as many BlueLightCamp-ers as possible will stick around for the BAPCO Annual Exhibition and Development Sessions, but more than this, we hope they will carry on the BlueLightCamp conversations with those BAPCO members who were not able to attend.
Paul, David and Sasha will also be on hand throughout the BAPCO event to continue any conversations from the BlueLightCamp event and to help with any social media surgeries to continue the sharing experiences and best practice.
Will you make available content for people who were unable to attend BLC?
We will be making BLC content available across a number of channels before, during and after the event, from videos, blogs, podcasts, and live-tweeting. The main source of information will always be the BlueLightCamp site: http://bluelightcamp.wordpress.com/
Participants are expected and encouraged to tweet throughout the event and people often blog about their experiences post event. Many of the new connections people make continue well beyond the closing speeches at the event.
Anything else you would like to mention?
So far, the response to BlueLightCamp has been very positive with 75% of the 170 tickets going within three weeks of our launch. We have a variety of brilliant sponsors that have the vision to support these events and thus making them free for the attendees. Without the sponsors unconferences would not be so easy to put on.
After a, hopefully, successful event this year planning will start again for 2013 with the aim of making this a regular calendar event for Blue Light Services.
At Officer.com this week, I wrote a back-to-basics column on using Twitter. The article ran long, so I didn’t get a chance to include a segment about a trend I’ve been noticing (and taking part in): the increasing importance of content curation.
Last month, the news that Twitter had acquired curation service Summify generated quite a bit of news. “Like some other services such as News.me, Summify filtered a user’s activity streams, then used an algorithm to produce a daily e-mail with links to the most-shared content in their social networks,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek explained.
In other words, Summify helped Twitter users determine what was important without their having to filter tweets manually. And with Twitter building this capability into its service, think about what curation might mean to a law enforcement Twitter account.
Remember: people share what they think their followers will benefit from. At this point, relevance is in the eye of the beholder—not the content originator. How can you help them?
First, put high quality content out there for sharing. Well-written blogs and web pages, well-edited video, carefully chosen images will get your followers’ attention. What about your agency’s police work do you want people to focus on? Communicate it clearly, and you’ll improve your chances that they’ll notice it and share it among themselves.
Second, curate content that supports what you’re doing. Sgt. John Jackson of the Houston Police Department presented me with an idea: use a curation service like Paper.li (or Scoop.it, my pick for Cops 2.0-related content) to package their various social streams for their audiences.
“Even better,” he wrote, “they could use it to bring some of their partners on board too. Crimestoppers, groups working with the mentally ill, homeless, veterans, etc.” Nonprofits, victim services advocates, community centers and others would be natural additions to a newsletter or curated stream. So would news articles highlighting a local-turned-broader issue across the nation.
I chose paper.li due to the format being easy to use, it self populates, you can add content and it looks like a newspaper! It is also easy for the reader to digest and navigate through.
“Naturally I draw from local Hampshire Constabulary Twitter accounts but also from others across the county that I find are interesting and who promote useful crime prevention information/advice by thinking outside of the box.
It is, along with the unit’s Twitter account, a tactic that supports a strategy: as Sutton describes, “to communicate crime prevention advice and encourage engagement with the public…. What we want is to break down the stereotypical barriers about what people think of the police, open up and explain what we do and show that we aren’t just a uniform; there is someone there for you if you need us.” Curation is just one of the ways the Portsmouth CCU is translating those words into action.
Are you curating content for your agency? What services do you use, and what kinds of articles do you include?