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Senior Command Course

On Friday 27th January I had the privilege of presenting to the Senior Command Course at Sunningdale. This is the course for Chief Superintendents and equivalent ranks from NCA and other police agencies around the world who aspire to the NPCC ranks.

The aims of the session were to;

  1. Introduce SCC2017 to social media and how it is being used by officers and the public
  2. Explain the pitfalls
  3. Show the positive side of communicating with staff and the public through social media

I was joined on the day by Commander John Sutherland, Jay Butcher (Digital Comms Lead – Surrey Police) and a representative from the Gendarmerie Nationale Comms team.

My presentation is reproduced below.

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Good morning. I’m sure many of you sat here, when you began this course, had a ‘pinch me’ moment when the reality of actually being on this course came home to you. I’d like to congratulate you all on being selected and wish you well with your future. I too am having one of those pinch me moments because never at any point in my career did I ever think I would be stood here presenting to you. I am however, very grateful for the opportunity and hope my social media journey will help you shape yours.

I would also add that I have never presented in a room where Mr Marshall is present. All I can say Sir is that if I falter at any point feel free to heckle me.

slide2

So. Who am I? My name is Neil Dewson-Smyth and I’m a Sgt with Cheshire Police. I have 26yrs service, all in uniform, covering section and 7 years roads policing with GMP. I then transferred to Cheshire and was embedded into custody where I was a custody sgt for 7 years. I now work in the Force Control Room as a Force Incident Sgt. I’m also a self-confessed social media geek. I have no discipline history to speak of and have an unblemished career. I plan to keep it that way.

I’m also a threat, a risk, a loose cannon, a maverick….  a pain in the backside.

It’s difficult to imagine how those two descriptions can morph together into one person. The reason is because I have something that has developed during my time on social media. It’s not something I have sought or gone out of my way to obtain but simply a natural consequence of my use of social media and how it has developed for policing over recent years. It is one word and it sometimes causes friction between myself, senior leadership teams and especially corporate communications.

slide3Influence. I have the ability to make things happen and that can sometimes be problematic. In order to demonstrate this I’d like to give you a quick overview of some work I have been doing with something that is a passion of mine…. the #DontStreamAndDrive campaign.

slide4If you’re wondering what I’m talking about then it would be good to explain what livestreaming is. As you can see here in the picture. The lady is holding up her phone and using the camera as though she were recording a video. Livestreaming is exactly this but the application you are using immediately pushes that video onto the internet for others to view and interact with. You are essentially running a live broadcast.

As you can imagine I saw a whole host of opportunities to use live video both personally and professionally for my force and beyond. However, as I continued to immerse myself in this world I started to see something I hadn’t considered at all.

slide5Ladies and gentlemen. May I introduce you to the ‘livestreaming driver’. As you can see here the lady on the left has her phone mounted in a cradle but she has no hands on the steering wheel at all. The chap bottom centre has the phone placed on the instrument cluster, has no hands on the steering wheel and you can see a comment at the bottom of the screen. I actually watched this one live and I can tell you he was on the M62 in West Yorkshire in shocking weather conditions. Throughout the broadcast he was complaining about the driving conditions whilst taking his hands off the wheel and reading every comment that was sent to him. The remainder all have two things in common. They are livestreaming and they all have their eyes on the phone.. NOT.. the road ahead. This is very common for drivers livestreaming. If you need to change the radio station or a setting in the car then you quickly glance at the control and then return your full attention to the road. These drivers will often display a reversal of this where their primary focus is on the phone and only glance at the road. The dangers and risks every road user is exposed to by such drivers are obvious. But… we are up against it..

slide6Thought leaders, influencers and celebrities are all engaging in this behaviour and endorsing it. Bottom left is Grant Cardone, author and motivational speaker whom I have observed to stream and drive on a number of occasions. On the right is Scottish MP Ian Murray who recorded a video whilst driving in Montreal and then posted it to Twitter. James Corden is here with Adele. Carpool Karaoke has been massively popular for him. There may be huge security precautions in place. Two vehicles in front.. two behind.. low speed. He may even be on a trailer. However, when this goes live any safety precautions are stripped away and it just shows James larking around and singing in a car with a celebrity whilst driving. The risk of copycat behaviour here is very high.

slide7All this activity led me to launch the first #DontStreamAndDrive day on April 8th last year. With the support of CC Davenport, NRPIF and my own force the campaign will be running again this year as part of the national campaign in March when the mobile phone penalty doubles.

In order for you to now see how this influence works I need to step out from this and ask if you have seen the video I set you as homework last week.

slide8Has everyone seen it? I set the homework via Twitter. (no hands show). It looks like detention for everyone then! If you haven’t seen video I would ask you to Google “Ted Start A Movement” and watch this 4 min video. You can watch here;

In the video there is one key phrase;

The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader

This behaviour by drivers is a clear and obvious danger. As I began to circulate the message it struck a chord with many of my colleagues around the country, especially roads policing officers, who began to pick up on it and support my message. This continued to grow and after a few weeks I gained the support of TISPOL , the road safety charity BRAKE , the government THINK! team and Police Professional magazine. From that point on the campaign exploded with police forces, ambulance services, fire and rescue services, community organisations and road safety groups all supporting the campaign…… influence.

slide9As you can imagine this created a number of difficulties as my activity as an individual was now influencing the behaviour of forces and other organisations around the country. As it continued to grow it led to national media coverage. I appeared on BBC Radio 4 PM programme, ran tests in the Digi-Car at TRL for a BBC magazine article and also spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live.

slide10The day went ahead and the social media reach on the day was in excess of 20 million people on Twitter alone.

slide11Post event there was further publicity. Police Professional ran a follow-up article. The Daily Mail identified drivers engaged in this behaviour and ran an article. Latterly I appeared on national breakfast television to talk about the dangers of this behaviour and the campaign.

slide12I continue to call out and challenge people on social media who engage in this behaviour. However some activity goes beyond a warning and needs a firmer response. Prosecuting is not easy but isn’t impossible.

slide13This driver was convicted on evidence I secured in a very unorthodox way, whilst at home, on a rest day and some 200 miles away from where the offence was being committed. I submitted all the evidence to the Metropolitan Police at Hounslow and a young aspiring traffic officer took on the case. The driver pleaded guilty at court.

slide14Police communications have been static for many years. We use all the traditional channels.. tv, radio and newspapers but we service them. Social media came along and every force in the country signed up to it but we really had no idea what we were doing. It took a long time for forces to understand the difference between engagement and broadcasting. Nationally we are now much improved but some forces are better than others. Many are still hanging back. There is, and always is, a long way to go but the social media world and the platforms we use change on a weekly basis and we need to be dynamic and fleet of foot to keep up with it.

There are countless platforms and it is unrealistic to expect us to be everywhere. What we should do is aim to excel where we are and be innovative in our approach and have sufficient presence that the public know where to find us.

Social media influencers around the world now market themselves as storytellers. We have a story but we have always relied on others to tell it for us. We own that story and as our social media reach increases we are becoming the trusted voice and the “go to” source for the facts. We have the ability to publish our own stories without any editorial control or spin to huge audiences.

This is a change in practice that may upset our traditional media relationships. We will need to build new relationships but we should not neglect them… not everyone is on social media after all.

Social media is a powerful tool that allows us to spread news and information, appeal for help and update and inform our communities about major incidents and we should be exploiting it.

So what can you do? Well you could get on social media yourself but only do it if it’s right for you. Do it because you want to.. not because you think you should. Otherwise, as John said earlier, it looks a bit like social media Dad dancing and that’s just a bit embarrassing. Whilst I was here last night I saw a lot of excitement and banter amongst you about follower numbers. It’s important to remember that whilst this is fun it is not about followers. Content is king and followers will come naturally as a consequence of quality content.

Embrace, support and drive social media within your organisation but you don’t have to be on social media to be a digital leader. Identify skill and talent and exploit it for the benefit of your organisation and more importantly the communities we serve.

We all make mistakes.

slide15Historically, errors on social media were seen as a huge embarrassment and engendered a real sledgehammer response. More recently things have calmed down but you need to be able to differentiate between the foolish, silly and not thought through and the deliberately reckless actions contrary to the code of ethics.

As my tutor constable said to me;

Error is the discipline through which we all advance

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. One day in your future, sooner or later, an officer will stand before you waving a phone around and be all excited about an idea that sounds utterly crazy. Remember;

The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader

Give them their head. Let them run.. maybe join them? The results may surprise you. Break the template and dare to do things differently. YOU might be the one follower that lone nut needs to make an enormous difference.

slide16Thank you.

 

 

 

#DontStreamAndDrive Day

Friends. I need your help.

Driving is a complex operation. A blending of eye, hand and foot coordination that can propel a vehicle down a road at incredible speed. A process that requires skill, judgement, responsibility and places upon you, as a driver, a duty of care to yourself and every other road user.

If done correctly, driving a car fully occupies your attention. Listen to my simple commentary here as I drive down country lanes. Now consider that in a city with pedestrians, cyclists, pedestrian crossings, more traffic, buses, more road signs, junctions and hazards. If you are fully focussed on your driving you have zero time to do anything else.

The use of mobile phones by drivers has been in existence since the devices were introduced. The specific offences were introduced to UK legislation in 2003.

As phones have become an essential part of day to day life the use of them by drivers has increased. Stand at any busy junction for 5 minutes and count how many drivers you see using a phone. You will be appalled. Studies have shown that driving ability is clearly impaired by using a mobile phone and that talking on a hand-held mobile phone impairs driving more than driving above the drink drive limit. Just think about that for a moment.

The Government in the UK recognise the implications of this behaviour and have, over the years, gradually increased the penalty for this offence. There is currently a consultation on bumping them up again. However, indications are that use by drivers is not reducing.

When questioned many people will agree that drinking and driving is unacceptable but will often happily get behind the wheel after 1 or 2 drinks. When asked, some people will agree that using a phone whilst driving is dangerous but will do it themselves. Why? Because they are a safe driver? There is regularly a disconnect between what people ‘think’ about certain behaviours and what they allow themselves to do.

In 2014, using a mobile phone whilst driving was a contributory factor in 21 fatal accidents. 21 families torn apart with grief. 21 lives needlessly taken because of unnecessary mobile phone use. Have you used a phone whilst driving? Did you think about the consequences and still use the phone anyway… or is this sort of tragedy, the kind of thing that happens to others? You’re a safe driver right? Wrong… if you use a phone whilst driving…. VERY wrong. It can, does and will happen to someone just like you.

But there is more to worry about. This isn’t making phone calls. This isn’t sending texts. This is the massively increasing trend of livestreaming on the internet. Livestreaming is fun and a great way to engage with friends and others online. You can show viewers what you are doing, what you are looking at and let them see who you are, your personality and your life. This is great when in a city and showing the sights, streaming an amazing sunset on Hawaii or the view from a hot air balloon drifting over the Serengeti. It’s amazing and really opens up other peoples worlds to us. There are many platforms to do this from such as Periscope, MeVee, Blab, Meerkat, Facebook and Snapchat. It stands to reason though that live streaming is going to come into the driving arena.

That last sentence is deliberately phrased to give the impression the problem is coming. The reality though is that livestreaming and driving is already here. I’ve spent the last few weeks looking at what people are doing and have been left utterly speechless. Drivers holding phones and broadcasting whilst they drive. Drivers flipping the camera whilst holding the phone whilst they drive. Drivers reading comments that viewers have put on the screen and engaging in conversations. Drivers showing themselves driving and the scary amount of time their eyes are looking at the phone and not on the road. Drivers admitting that what they are doing is probably illegal, reckless or dangerous.. but STILL DOING IT! Drivers who are almost giving a presentation… aiming for some sort of social media celebrity status  and desperately trying to impress viewers.

Yesterday I watched a young woman in the USA, streaming, driving, reading the comments, replying to the viewers and was adjusting her hair at the same time. She had no hands at all on the steering wheel.

The consequences of this new behaviour are very frightening. It will not be long before the first person livestreams their own death or that of another whilst driving.

I have called out a few people over the last few weeks who have streamed and drived. I have tried to point out the dangers and have used some videos to try and reinforce the point.

You can find them all here.

Livestreaming and driving is increasing every day. The people I have called out are roughly split into 3 groups. Those who don’t reply to me at all, those who are in denial (“I’m a safe driver” and “I never touched the phone”) and those who realise what they have done and commit to never do it again.

I’ll finish as I started. ‘I need your help’

On Friday 8th April 2016 I plan to run a #DontStreamAndDrive day.

Over the next few weeks I will be asking you to help support the day. To get the message out to as many people as possible that livestreaming and driving can be a fatal.

I will be asking you as a livestreamer to get online and post a short broadcast with the hashtag. In the broadcast you will give your commitment to never stream and drive, encourage others not to and that you will never watch a broadcast when the host is driving. Those on Twitter who do not livestream will be encouraged to post a picture holding a card with the hashtag or written on their hand in the classic palm forward ‘stop’ style. More detailed info will follow nearer the date.

I plan to speak to as many road safety agencies as I can to gain support. I will approach all my policing colleagues in the UK, North America and beyond to get them to help and share the message both in advance and then support the event on the day.

I know that every right thinking person would want to reduce the number of deaths on our roads. Ironically every streaming driver I have seen would probably say the same…. we need to bridge the gap between the mindset and the behaviour. We need to get the message out there now, nice and early, to current and future livestreamers that streaming and driving is massively dangerous and must not be done.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to those who have supported me so far. Thank you if I’ve touched a chord and you think you will be able to help me in advance of and on the April 8th itself.

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook then please consider signing up to the #DontStreamAndDrive Thunderclap

The message is really quite simple; #DontStreamAndDrive

I am delighted that #DontStreamAndDrive day has the support of the amazing organisations and police forces;

Supporters 160407

(click image for larger version)

Police Professional Magazine ; Fixers UK ; THINK! ; TISPOL ; Road Safety GB ; Brake Charity ; Safe Drive GM ; Road Safety Wales ; Birmingham Updates ; Wasted Lives ; National Crime Agency ; Bedfordshire Police ; Leicestershire Police ; Surrey Police ; North Yorkshire Police ; North Wales Police ; College of Policing ; Cumbria Crack ; Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service ; Wiltshire Police ; Sussex Police ; Avon and Somerset Police ; Police Federation of England and Wales ; Norfolk Police ; Suffolk Police ; RoSPA ; West Yorkshire Police ; West Midlands Fire Service ; Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service ; Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service ; East Anglia Air Ambulance ; North West Motorway Patrol Group ;

*Featured image courtesy of Mike Petrucci on Flickr (satnav screen image changed and text added)

Can We Talk?

In the news today there has been a story about police officers and staff being investigated and in some cases disciplined for the inappropriate use of social media.

This led to some discussions ‘on’ social media.. no surprise there! We even had DCC Ian Hopkins (ACPO Digital Engagement Lead) and Steve White (PFEW Chair) discussing the situation on BBC 5 Live. (listen from 1hr 23mins)

Mr Hopkins gave an eloquent and honest overview of the police use of social media. He confirmed that police officers and  staff are getting training in the use of social media. He quoted a figure of 6000 for staff/officers trained in his force in this year alone! He also stuck to the basic and accurate standpoint that, like it or not, officers must stick within the code of ethics both on and off duty. He went on to say that he was encouraged by the news story because it highlighted that fellow officers/staff were reporting inappropriate use by colleagues and showed that the service took such use seriously. Quite rightly he also said that inappropriate use of social media was also a ‘soScreen Shot 2014-08-19 at 18.24.41cietal issue’  and that the service needed to be setting the standards. He closed his first section by pointing out the huge benefits the police and public get from our social media use and how this far outweighs the small number who get it wrong.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 18.27.26As the discussions on social media continued there were several comments made about how to stay safe online. Mantras that will ensure officers tread the correct side of the line. These are useful as they are a simple scenario for people to consider when they are posting content to social media be it about work, for work or in an official or personal capacity.

I too have used such suggestions in the past. Yet I have come to conclude that they are perhaps not as helpful as first they might seem. As I highlighted in my recent blog there are many police officers and staff who have no involvement in social media at all. They don’t get it. These people need to understand how social media works and how it differs from methods the police have traditionally used to communicate information. Can we encourage users to relax with social media if we put scenarios in place that they should consider first? Are we trying to tell them they need to act differently than they would in other circumstances? When faced with stories such as today it becomes even harder to convince officers and staff to get involved.

Let’s consider the use of email. Have you ever sent an email that you thought was perfectly polite and acceptable and had a ‘snot-o-gram’ in reply? Have you read the tone in an email sent to you as chattingaggressive and threatening and ended up in an angry email exchange? It happens all the time. Tone in the electronic written word is very difficult to convey that is not an issue rowwith the spoken word.

Twitter and other social media platforms are no different.  It’s very easy to think you are starting a sensible and well mannered conversation only find you end up in what seems like a finger pointing row. This is a perennial problem and I’m not sure if it will ever go away… (emoticons can help).

So how should we be telling officers how to use social media? Well first of all I have to reinforce the comments of DCC Hopkins. You must be in line with the code of ethics.  After that officers and staff need to understand that twitter and social media is nothing more than a conversation. A conversation that they could have with someone whilst sat in their lounge taking a statement. A conversation they could have with someone on the street. Everyone in the country is a natural born communicator. We all talk to other people every day. Officers and staff already possess ALL the skills they need in order to be effective on social media.

When I have discussed such simplicity with officers they have told me that they do not understand the boundaries of the information they can share. The traditional police Common-Sense-300x225route would be to provide a policy document full of do’s and don’ts. Yet with the best will in the world such a policy could not cover every eventuality. Some basic parameters are useful but officers and staff then need to rely on that age old skill…’common sense’.

Officers are very familiar with standing at an outer cordon of a scene and saying..

‘There has been an incident at an address up the road. I can’t tell you more at the moment’.

What they wouldn’t say is;

‘It’s Mr Jones at 34. He’s been messing with kids and they’ve found a body under the patio’.

Officers know already what they can and can’t discuss in public so they already know what they can and can’t discuss on social media.

Officers deal with members of the public every single day who have been subject to inappropriate use of social media. It stands to reason that within the police service there will be the occasional user who is disgruntled about something in their work or personal life and post content that exposes them to risk. The code of ethics and discipline procedures are there to deal with such persons. There are also users who will simply make genuine mistakes and in such cases the senior command teams and PSD should be there to support them. Have you ever heard of an officer speaking inappropriately to a member of the public on the street and being banned from speaking to the public at all? Of course not.

Of course there is one issue with twitter being seen as a conversation. This is not a one to one chat. When you post content you post it for all to see and with some accounts this could be thousands of people. Everyone has different views and ideas about how things should be. So whilst a tweet or post may seem fairly safe to most there will always be somebody who doesn’t like it. This does not make it wrong. How officers and staff respond to that criticism can be the foundations and building blocks of greater trust between us and our communities. Our senior teams and PSD need to fully understand this. If they don’t then the admonishment of officers simply trying their best will squash out of existence the benefits we are currently reaping.

1. Twitter is a conversation

2. Officers and staff already have all the skills they need

3. There will be mistakes and disagreements but this is normal and perfectly ok so long as we continue to learn from them.

Can we talk? Of course we can… get to it!

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