Bringing local policing to the living room

West Midlands Police’s success at using digital technology to beam public meetings directly into the living rooms of local people will be the focus of its message to the UK’s first international social media law enforcement conference.

Aug 13, 2014
By Paul Jacques

West Midlands Police’s success at using digital technology to beam public meetings directly into the living rooms of local people will be the focus of its message to the UK’s first international social media law enforcement conference.

Officers across the West Midlands are using Google Hangout technology to take part in live video streaming of local meetings. The free software means they can engage much more widely with a diverse range of local people than ever before – at no cost.

Traditionally, local meetings attract few people. By using new technology linked to social media, audiences can submit questions in advance or on the night, login live to the meeting or tune in later to see what has been said.

During a series of four public meetings held recently in south Birmingham using live video streaming, the average audience tuning in swelled from around 20 to more than 1,000.

Since the force started using live videos and web chats, more than 30,000 people have taken part.

“It’s clear this really is the way forward in terms of engaging with local people,” said Assistant Chief Constable Carl Foulkes, the lead for local policing.

“Seeking the views of members of the public is critical to our success. But we need to move away from a tradition of holding public meetings in often inaccessible or uninviting premises at times to suit us, to one where people feel empowered to take part and where we can have a two-way dialogue with them.”

Previously held only in the US and Canada, West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims will open the three-day SMILE (Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement) conference in Birmingham from September 9-11.

Guest speakers include Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Simon Cole, who will talk about the role command teams can play in using social media; Peter Sloly, the deputy chief of Toronto Police, who will discuss using technology to improve public safety; and Brendan Jose, of West Midlands Police, who will highlight the use of social media during major investigations.

“We have a lot we can share about what we are doing around social networking, but at the same time there’s a great opportunity for us to learn about what other organisations are doing in an attempt to reach out to even more people across our region,” added Mr Foulkes.

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