ACPO Digital – ‘the end of digital’?



I was fortunate to help arrange the recent ACPO event on digital technologies and social media, in conjunction with NPIA and Google. The event was deliberately small, and aimed at senior strategic leaders across UK policing. Attendees included Sir Hugh Orde, President of ACPO, CC Richard Crompton, ACPO lead for Local Policing and Partnerships, DCC of Cumbria Stuart Hyde, DCC of Central Scotland Derek Penman, DCC Gordon Scobbie, the ACPO lead for digital engagement, Dr Mark Kilgallon, the designer of the Strategic Command Course, as well as representatives from CEOP, NPIA, other forces and areas.

There were some excellent speakers, and some really positive messages from the discussion session, and I wanted to share some of these insights with you. I will add a further post with DCC Gordon Scobbie’s presentation, and some thoughts on the discussion afterwards shortly.

Hamish Nicklin – Google.

Hamish Nicklin, Google

Hamish Nicklin, Google

Digital is persuasive and here to stay. But now is also ‘the end of Digital’

Hamish used the scene from Minority Report, the film based in 2050, where the main character (Tom Cruise) walks down the street and is bombarded with personalised advertising, created as retinal scanners identify who he is. Hamish contends that all the technology to do that exists today – but would probably use phone based identification rather than retinal scans.
So digital is already here. 150 years ago businesses would have employed a head of power or head of electricity. The job title ‘Head of Digital’ will seem as anachronistic soon. Placing new technologies into silos doesn’t work – digital in particular needs to be at the centre of thinking.

Hamish reflected on Google’s strategy of ‘mobile first’, starting in 2010. His challenge to policing was to consider the same approach – put digital at the centre of what we do and think digital first. He then went on to give some statistics to reinforce why:

  • 30m UK adults use the Internet every day in last 12 months.
  • 73% of people in the UK have internet access at home.
  • More data was generated in 2009 than in the previous 5,000 years.

Hamish identified four trends – social / mobile / video / convergence

  • Social – everything on the Internet is geared towards social sharing, and this will only increase.
  • Mobile – EBay reported $6b of mobile revenue in 2010 (with purchases including yachts being bought viamobile phones!) 14m people per day surf on mobile in the UK.
  • Video – video makes up 33% of all Internet traffic now – Cisco predict that this wiil rise to 90% by 2015.
  • Convergence – Hamish gave a personal examples of using a mobile to check online prices whilst in a store, and getting the store to price match –  making the online world into the real world.

So what does this mean?

  • Implications of the amount of data that is being created are still being worked through- all the search data allows an understanding of what people are thinking and saying. Search engines are ‘giant databases of intentions’.
  • Using social media to consult – no one has figured out exactly how best to do this yet – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it!
  • Democratisation of data – for example crime mapping. Take your data, offer it out to the public, and get them to work on shared solutions.

Nick Jones – CoI

Nick Jones - CoI

Nick Jones - CoI

Despite speaking on the very day that the future of the CoI was being published, Nick gave a great overview of government use of social and digital technologies. Nick started with lots of statistics

  • 27m people are on facebook – 60% of those use it daily.
  • 62% of people use twitter…but only 27% for customer service. This may be partly because 6% expect a reply in 10 minutes!

Nick warned against being seduced by the glamour of digital – does digital allow you to create, connect and share more easily? if not then why are you doing it? Digital is increasingly two way, and the feedback loop from those you engage with is vital

Nick gave a great example of the permission for RAF frontline staff to tweet. Many police forces  are doing the same, and Nick said that in some areas the police are moving ahead of central government.

Nick then moved on to how to do it.

  • internal communications should also be using digital methods to connect
  • Job descriptions should all include digital – it should not be siloed off to communications or PR.
  • A German study showed that moderate use of Social Media by public sector increased the communications effect by between 4-8%. Interestingly there were larger increases in those that were normally uninterested in policy.
  • Organisations need to listen more – the example was of Tesco customer service, where they identified the biggest challenge was linking insight to actions.

‘Every citizen is a sensor’. Brain Humphrey LA fire dept.

Social media relationships are not just for Christmas. Keeping them up and relevant can be exhausting – organisations should consider appropriate support for those on the digital frontline.


  • The Foregn and COmmonwelth Office have a policy of assumed competence (after training) to use social media, for all their staff.
  • The AOL way is more traditional.
  • Nokia used fear as a motivator, with their ‘burning platform’ email.

Leadership in a networked world  has changed. Organisations must create value via use of groups and by setting clear goals. Use a solution and champion it yourself. This may be a challenge as everone overestimates the benefits of the current way of doing things by 3 times, and underestimates the benefits for the new way, also by 3 times.

Organisations and their people have grown used to the centre taking decisions – this is despite the fact that most often knowledge and expertise lies at the edges.

David Allen Green

David Allen Green

David Allen Green is well known as the lawyer in the Twitter Joke trial and as a Journalist for the new statesman, as well as a blogger. He started off by how he became interested in police use of social media though re-tweeting banal police tweets. Having been challenged by Nick Keane from the NPIA over what impact this might have he has been convinced that police use of Twitter is an incredibly good thing.

His strong message was to keep PR departments out of social media – ‘Twitter is hostile to the phony, but does encourage personality’. Police officers already do a lot of writing – we trust them to use coercive force, so we should trust them to use Twitter. We have no policy for officers on how to reply to a greeting of ‘good morning’ –  so why do we need one for using Social Media for essentially the same thing?

He gave the example of Paul Clarke who handed in a sawn off shotgun to his local police station, and because of strict liability offences and a decision to arrest him, faced five years in jail. Via his blog, David raised awareness of the real issues, and got loads of hits with people wanting the full story, in lots of detail. There is definitely an appetite for the police to do the same – and use blogs etc topromote understanding of decisions.

Social media is not a PR exercise, it is a relationship exercise. David gave a further example of the adoption of a police force avatar by a parody account on Twitter – and the heavy handed response of threatening the parody account with impersonating a police officer.

Policing Twitter

David then gave a brief overview of the Paul Chambers Twitter trial. Paul tweeted (in jest, and just intended for his few followers) that “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”. After this was found by a random security search and reported, Paul was charged, and subsequently lost his job and an appeal against conviction. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision to charge, the fact remains that the original Tweet has been retweeted 18,000 times.

David’s final point was that the police shouldn’t patrol Twitter to look for offences otherwise we will lose all the good things that fall out of Twitter.

This entry was posted in ACPO, police, Policing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s