Tag Archives: law

Diversification

This week I gave a very short presentation at work via video conferencing. My topic was on social media and diversification of content and platform. You can find what I said below.

Good afternoon everyone. For those of you that don’t know me my name is Neil Dewson-Smyth and I’m a Sgt working here at HQ in control room. I have been involved with force social media directly or indirectly since 2011. I’m also well known across the UK and around the world as @SgtTCS on Twitter. I was one the early police officer adopters who took to social media anonymously. From there I  trod the precarious path of talking publicly about police work. A practice that was at the time frowned upon and caused all sorts of fear in forces around the country leading to discipline matters for many officers and staff.

Times have changed. I’m no longer anonymous and whilst I am not officially endorsed by Cheshire Police I am recognised and known as a police officer on Twitter across the UK and around the world. My #DontStreamAndDrive campaign has garnered the support of forces around the country, North America and the world. Ambulance, fire & rescue services, road safety organisations and the UK Govt THINK! Team have all given it their support. This years campaign was coordinated with NPCC Road Policing Lead. I have given presentations on this road safety issue at various conferences including NRPIF, TISPOL, NDORS and Road Safety Wales. In April this year I went to Los Angeles and won the ConnectedCops Social Media Leadership award. Social media has created opportunities for me that I never envisaged and allows me, in my own way, I hope, to make a difference as a police officer.

I did have some speakers lined up for you today from across the country and from Miami in the USA. Sadly, policing demands and technology compatibility issues made it too difficult to achieve. That said I do think it’s important to hear about the journeys other people have taken from their perspective and hear their success stories. This is a far more impactive way of showing you what can be achieved than just listening to me. I hope to be able to try to do this again soon.

So as I said, forces across the country are more relaxed about social media than they ever were. In force and across the country we are starting to see some innovative content and engagement. Some of you here are already using social media for your LPU (Local Policing Unit). Some maybe not. As a consequence some of you will be more comfortable with social media than others. Some of you may be using it tentatively and some of you are creating brilliant content for Facebook and Twitter.

Slightly contrary to the brief Supt Crowcroft outlined earlier, I’m not going to tell you what to tweet and how to make Facebook posts better. That for most users is a trial and error process. You will no doubt have posted something you thought was brilliant and got very little engagement. You will also have posted something fairly mundane and got a much better response. Sometimes there appears to be no logic to what works and what doesn’t. There is no secret sauce… but the key thing is to diversify… an account full of content about community meetings, yet another recovered vehicle for no insurance and a stock ‘don’t do this’ type message, such as ‘don’t leave your windows open’, is unlikely to set the world on fire. Your content needs to be varied, engaging, serious, informative, humourous, entertaining and unique. There is so much stuff we do in the police. So much information we can share and we are barely scratching the surface. So to dig deeper we need some innovative thinking, being bold enough to try something different and acknowledging that mistakes will be made along the way.

So whilst you think about your new and fantastic content I want you to think about diversifying even further. In Force we are using Facebook and Twitter but ask yourself a question. Are these the best platforms and hitting the right audience for you? Have you identified a specific, maybe hard to reach section of your community, that you can engage with in a different way? Would that be better achieved with Instagram, Snapchat, live video or a blog? Maybe you need to be using Pinterest or Music.ly? Do you have a specific skill that you could exploit to reach a group of people? Maybe you sing or play the guitar. Maybe you run 10k’s or half marathons or can ride BMX bikes in tubes. Dare to be different. Otherwise you’re doing what we have always done and as the saying goes.. you will therefore always get the same result.

Talk to the people in your community. Identify the platforms they use and and then ask them.. “would it be useful I was on there too?” When you go to the local park to talk to youths being noisy.. don’t just clear them off … spend some time with them chatting.. ask the questions.. what social media platform are you all on? Do you have any problems? Do you see people doing foolish things that need help? Do you think it would help if we had someone on there for help and advice? You can then explore whether there is an opening for you to reach out to that group of people and provide a valuable community service.  But don’t worry about numbers of followers. If you have a new platform and only have 20 people following you it doesn’t matter. If by being there you have a positive impact upon just one of them that keeps them safe, steers them away from a predator or prevents crime… then it is without doubt an outright and unmitigated success and time well spent.

Every social media platform on the planet is available to you – if you want to use it in force you only need to ask for it but be prepared to explain why and what for. A good argument for what you want and why will likely make it happen. Just asking for it because ‘you want it’.. won’t. Corp Comms are there to support the front line but you need to be able evidence what you want and why.

As an example I would direct you to PC Mark Walsh from Hampshire police who was going to speak today. He was on Twitter and doing very well – he still is. Then when talking to young people he worked with he realised that many of them were using the platform Vine. Some forces had Vine accounts but were not using them. Mark took it upon himself to set up a Vine account. He capitalised on his own skill set, his unique sense of humour and specifically targeted a group of young people that Twitter and Facebook were missing. The result was amazing. He posted dozens of short videos… and had millions of loops. He hit his target audience but then it went further and he reached people well away from his local community of the same age group but also every other age group. He had national and international media attention.

There are two lessons to learn from Mark’s experience.

1.

Dare to be different and try something new. He came up with something that utilised his own special skill set and capitalised on that to make a real difference.

2.

The second one is about the platform. Where is Vine today? Gone. No more. Closed down. We are using Twitter and Facebook predominantly in force and they are both stalwarts of the social media world but nothing is forever. Vine disappeared very quickly. Twitter has had a number of occasions over the last few years where the social media world has been alive to the belief that Twitter is going to go. It’s still there but the point is this.. nothing lasts forever. Where would we be if Twitter and Facebook announced they were shutting down forever at the end of August? We would be scrabbling to find the replacements and build our following to keep getting our messages out there. So it’s important to be looking at and trying new and emerging platforms and whether they work for us even if that’s only a short lived case like Vine or more long term like Twitter and Facebook.

As I said earlier today hasn’t been about what to do – it’s been about asking you to look at other ways of doing things that may OR may not work for you and your LPU/Dept/Team. If you have a desire, dream or aspiration to do something different, something unique or something quirky then you need to start looking at how you can do that.

Corp Comms are there to help, advise and support the frontline in policing their community and keeping them informed. Just don’t go to them with a wish list – go to them with evidence supporting your request.

I, of course, am always available to help and advise you wherever I can.

Thank you very much

In The Hood

A suspect arrest a short while back
has caused the police to get some flack.
The suspect chose to struggle and fight
the officers using all their might
could not contain this fight, this war
they had to take him to the floor.

The struggle went on
and on and on.

An arm swung up, “look out a fist!”
A cuff placed swiftly on a wrist.
Cuffed, restrained nowhere to go
but with a crowd he made a show.

Immobilised legs, arms no use
with nothing else he hurled abuse.
The crowd recorded with their phones
every cry, wail and groan.
Live video and vines on a loop
on YouTube this will be a scoop.

This will be an Internet hit.
The cops had used all their kit.

With arms and legs out of play
and nothing more he could say
he played his final gambit
spit spit spit

He missed but ohh this was not good.
But wait the cops had a spit hood.
This man was a total stranger
infection was a real danger.
Swiftly placed upon the head
his ill intentions were put to bed.
Bystanders and what they saw
caused outrage, shock and uproar.

Foul behaviour cut off mid flow.
The cops knew they had to go.
On his feet they took their man
and lodged him securely in a van.

The suspect may not ever tell
of what he thought whilst in that cell.
Yet despite how spit hoods might appear
causing shock, anger or fear.
The cops who engaged in that fight
went home to loved ones safe that night.

Civilised society to you and me
is often not what we cops see.
The nasty underbelly of life
can cause gentler folk some strife.
This is just what we cops do.
Fight for our safety, me and you.

Blab

Seen the tweets on my timeline? Curious but not enough to actually go look? What is this new fangled wizardry?

Anything new can be a bit off putting. This is relatively new and sometimes has been a bit buggy but overall it’s pretty good. So what is it?

 If you’re familiar with Google hangout or Skype then you’ll be right at home. It’s a simple video chat or conference system that allows up to four users to have a real time video chat. You log in with your Twitter details. The host manages the video seats to allow in those people who are interesting to talk to and can boot off those who seek to disrupt. Users who cannot or do not want to participate by video can join the conversation by sending text messages into the chat via the interface.

I’ve done some experimenting over the last couple of weeks and have seen a great opportunity to expand on some of the discussions we have on Twitter. In time we could have anon cops (the camera/video can be disable to protect ID) and perhaps even senior officers joining us for a conversation. It’s engaging, it’s informal and it’s fun.

You can participate using an iOS device (the app is available in the App Store) or via a desktop or laptop computer. If using a computer the website is optimised for Google Chrome. You don’t need a camera or mic to join in and watch but do if you want to take a video seat. An iPhone headset seems to work very well.

You can find out a little more about Blab here

I will be online at 9pm GMT tonight. It will be informal, fun and just a chat. Why not join me and see where we can take this together?

Let it go..

On 12th August 1966 in a street in west London, 3 police officers were gunned down; murdered. The country was appalled. This was something that simply didn’t happen. Less than two weeks prior to the incident the England football team had won the World Cup. The country was on a high and this brought everyone back down to earth with a huge bump.

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The three officers, DS Christopher Head, DC David Wombwell and PC Geoffrey Fox were all shot dead. The offenders were Harry Roberts, John Duddy and John Witney.

There is a good overview of the case here by the Channel 4 news team.

1415781017557_wps_12_Police_and_members_of_theOn the day of the funerals the public turned out in their thousands and lined the streets with police officers to pay their respects. The public sentiment on that day is identical to those we experienced more recently in Manchester.

In the meantime the might of the Metropolitan Police began a manhunt. Witney was arrested within hours. Duddy fled to Scotland but was arrested within 5 days. Roberts on the other hand vanished. It took three months to locate him. He was finally brought into custody in early November. He has been behind bars ever since.

The crime was awful and described by many as the most heinous of a generation. It also led to the formation of the Police Dependants Trust.

After a 6 day trial and overwhelming evidence the three suspects were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge, on handing down the life sentences and a 30 year tariff said;

“I think it likely that no home secretary regarding the enormity of your crime will ever think fit to show mercy by releasing you on licence. This is one of those cases in which the sentence of imprisonment for life may well be treated as meaning exactly what it says.”

The death penalty had only been withdrawn the year before. Many called for it to be reinstated. It does appear, based on the evidence and the sentencing, that had the crime occurred when the legislation was in force, the death penalty was a very real possibility.

Either way two of the men have since died. John Duddy died in jail on 8th February 1981. John Witney was released on licence in 1991. This caused huge controversy as he was released before the expiry of his 30 year tariff but his release stood. In 1999 Witney was beaten to death with a hammer by his flat mate.

Roberts on the other hand remained in prison. He completed his 30 year tariff and up until this year (18 years later) the parole board never saw fit to release him. This is a good blog by Rachel Rogers that discusses life sentences, tariffs and whole life terms.

The news of the impending release of Roberts spread like wildfire. The response was overwhelmingly outrage. The national chair of the Police Federation said that “officers up and down the country were furious”. He said Roberts gunned down police officers in broad daylight and “quite frankly, he should never be released from prison”. He went on to make a further statement that “there will be people out there, planning to murder police officers, thinking they can get away with it”. He closed with “It’s not about rehabilitation or whether Roberts is now safe. It’s about the punishment fitting the crime”. Steve White’s comments can be watched here.

John Tully the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation branch tweeted; “a total betrayal of policing by the criminal justice system this man should never see the light of day again, life should mean life”

As a contrast the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was asked about the release on LBC.

He, dodged the direct questions but he defended the justice system and the probation/parole system. His overall view was that we cannot allow the justice system to be run on emotions and popular opinion.

Then, most importantly, behind all the froth in the media are the families of those three officers. The families who have spent the last 48 years living without their loved one.

A few years ago a good friend of mine, a police officer, was stabbed to death on duty. On the day I wasn’t furious. I was speechless. I came home, sat on the sofa and cried. The man responsible was convicted and sent to prison. Over the following weeks and standing as guard of honour at the door of the cathedral I didn’t feel anger. I wasn’t furious. I was sad but I was also enormously proud. The offender never really crossed my mind.

In more recent years we have had the murder of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester. I think of them a lot and I think of their families and friends too. I don’t think of the murderer himself and I never ever name him. As I look back on those events was I furious? No. I was intensely shocked and saddened by their deaths and I also know that it is what police officers face on a daily basis.

With all the comment in the media I began to think I should be outraged. I should be angry at this man and those responsible for allowing his release. Then I stopped because I realised I wasn’t furious and I wasn’t angry.

This man took away the lives of those officers and their families lives changed that day forever. There is no getting away from that. No matter how much we discuss, debate and argue about the release of Roberts we cannot bring those men back.

When someone you love dies you don’t simply get over it. You can only learn to live without them. It has to be the same for those who lose a loved one in such tragic circumstances. They will never get over the loss but they will learn to live with it in their own way. I can only imagine it being much much harder when there is someone to blame. A person who is responsible for your loss.

We know that the death penalty still exists in the USA. We know that the family members of a victim can attend and watch a person put to death. Would observing such an act cleanse you of your pain?

We know that a person can be sent to prison for life and never be released. Would a person being in prison forever ease your pain?Would their ultimate death behind bars finally allow you to find peace?

Do any of these scenarios reduce the pain suffered by the families? Do they make the situation better? More bearable? I don’t think they do. I’m sure that having the offender in prison gives some comfort but I don’t think it brings release from hurt.

Whether you like it or not, Roberts has been released. A 78 year old man has served 48 years  (longer than I have been alive) for the murder of police officers. What difference will this make to my life? None at all. I’m somewhat shocked at the statement by Steve White about ‘getting away with it’. We hear a lot of talk that people who are given a police caution are getting away with it. I’m really stumped at how 48 years in prison can be seen as such? If this is getting away with it what would be suitable? I’m sure the response to that will be life means life. I’d agree. I think if life imprisonment without chance of release makes legislation then so be it. Until then we have to live with the system we have, no matter how unpalatable it may be to some of us. Getting angry about the promise of legislation promised but yet to come and applying it to a 48 year old case is absurd.

The crux of this matter is that Roberts appeared before a court, was sentenced and has seen that sentence through with an additional 18 years on top. That justice system, removed from the emotion of being too close to the offence, has now deemed him fit for release and have done so. My immediate thought? So what!

The tragedy of the loss cannot be underestimated but what needs are satisfied by keeping him inside after all this time? I have only seen anger and hurt. It seems to me that in trying to hurt him we actually hurt ourselves. Revenge imprisons us.. forgiveness sets us free. How can anyone move forward whilst holding bitterness, hatred and revenge within them? A toxic mix of emotions that destroys the person you are and who you can be. It’s like having a tumour inside you and instead of treating it you hold onto it and allow it to define you.

Some may ask if I would feel the same way about the man who killed my friend. Some may ask if I would feel the same about the man who killed Nicola and Fiona. The answer is yes. Would our loved ones want us to remain static. Would they want us to remain angry, bitter and vengeful for 30, 40, 50 years or would they say.. “Move on. Be as happy as you can be. Don’t let this tragedy define who you are”. I hope and pray that nothing ever happens to me when I’m on duty but if it did… please show this to my wife. Tell her to be happy.. life is far too short.

I understand my view here is contrary to popular opinion and I do not post my thoughts with any intention to offend, upset or hurt anyone. I just feel strongly about being able to ‘Let it Go’. Free yourself.

By forgiving those who hurt us we are not letting them off the hook; we are in effect letting ourselves off the hook.

Looks Matter

We are told these days that looks do not matter. We are told that those who are slightly, or even heavily overweight should not be ashamed. They should be proud of who they are and how they look because looks do not make the person. The person makes the person. We have adverts where shapely women show off their curves and point two fingers at the sterotypical size 6 figure that has, over the years, been portrayed as the perfect form. Oddly, as women’s magazines start to use models with a fuller figure, the mens magazines are full of tanned muscle bound, six pack toting chaps.. it seems a bit odd to me.. but that’s another blog. I’ll stick with my family pack! The bottom line though is that how you look is not a factor that should determine your opportunities or you abilities. It is most definitely not something that should be used against you in a discriminatory fashion.

A person should be proud of who they are without fear of being singled out, sneered at, abused or overlooked. Conversely everyone also needs to be accepting of others and challenge those who are not. Looks and appearance DO NOT matter.

With nearly 24 years service I have been IMG_4601very fortunate to have been awarded three medals during my service with the police. I am very proud of them and whenever I get the opportunity to wear them I will. There was a time when turning up at court to give evidence meant a tunic (as above) was essential. Times have changed and now officers turn up at court in combat trousers, body armour and the well worn coat or fleece that they wear every day on duty. Sadly, even after my fight for a tunic, I’m not allowed to wear it at court. I think I’d probably defy the rule for crown court but for magistrates I wear my fleece.

In addition to my physical medals I also have a ribbon bar. This is always attached to my fleece when attending court. I’m proud of my uniform, I’m proud of my service and I’m proud to be a police officer. Granted, I do not wear the medals themselves, but I wear my ribbon bar because I can and because I’m entitled to. I have never been asked to remove the ribbon bar.

This week we have had the case of Cpl Mark Kershaw appearing in court in Hull as a witness. He was the victim of a dreadful assault by 3 people and attended at court, in a civilian suit wearing his medals. His wearing of the medals was challenged by the defence on the basis that they might ‘unfairly affect the jury’. The suggestion here was that standing in the witness box wearing his medals may cause the jury to incorrectly give his evidence greater credence. The jury may fall on the side of the victim because he was a war hero and would get favouritism. The judge agreed and for the four day trial Cpl Kershaw was banned from wearing his medals.

Does the wearing of medals sway a jury so easily? I’ve never been asked to remove my ribbon bar. I’ve proudly stood in the witness box wearing my medal ribbons and been called a liar, told I’m making things up and I’m particularly rubbish at my job. The defence have not had any qualms in challenging me, regardless of the decoration on my chest.

There was some discussion about the Cpl Kershaw case yesterday and one of the arguments put forward supporting the barrister and judge was that the Cpl has previous cautions. He apparently has cautions for violence and, if I understand the circumstances correctly, a deal was struck that the cautions would not be mentioned if the medals were not worn.

I find this a little odd. If the court is interested in the truth then the truth was something very different than that presented to the jury. The truth was that Cpl Kershaw is a decorated soldier commended for bravery. The truth is that Cpl Kershaw also has a police caution/s for violence. It seems a little odd to me that the defence asked for the medals to be removed. I can’t imagine, after the treatment I’ve had in the box, a barrister giving up the opportunity to build up a witness based on his gallantry and medals and then shoot him down with his previous history.

Ultimately the case concluded and the 2 suspects (a third had pleaded guilty) were unanimously convicted of assaulting Cpl Kershaw. Sentencing will follow in December. So it was a win for the victim yet it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. A deal was struck. It shouldn’t have been. The Cpl should have been allowed to wear his medals if he chose to do so and any self respecting barrister would have been able to leverage them to the advantage of the defence in this case. One of the purposes of the defence and the prosecution is to discredit the witnesses. Why did that not happen in this case?

The defence and judge claimed that wearing the medals may ‘unfairly affect the jury’ or give a ‘false impression’ of his character. Cpl Kershaw had the medals but also had cautions. As the defence chose not to try and discredit his character by use of his previous cautions it seems clear to me that it was his ‘appearance’ that was the issue. The worry was what the jury may assume based on what they see and not on what they hear.

Many years ago I dealt with a pretty awful young girl in care. She had committed a nasty robbery on two young girls, of around the same age, walking home from school. The evidence was compelling but she pleaded not guilty and went to trial. She turned up in court in jeans, a scruffy top and hair like she’d been pulled through a hedge backwards. She looked a mess. My two victims on the other hand turned up in school uniform, ties and blazers. They were beautifully presented, spoke eloquently and were a credit to both themselves and their parents.  The contrast between the two sides was stark. Granted this was not before a jury but before youth court bench but were they asked to dress down? No.

If we had a frail pensioner beaten and robbed during a burglary by a violent thug what would happen at court? Would a jury be swayed by the fact that the witness in the box is a frail, weak, elderly pensioner in need of a sympathy vote? No. They would consider the evidence. We do not hide such persons behind a screen to stop the jury drawing conclusions based on how they look or speak.

If Cpl Kershaw wanted to wear his medals he should have been allowed to do so. If the defence then worked those medals against him then that’s his own fault. Even if not wearing them, a shrewd barrister, with the requisite knowledge, who wanted to discredit him may have asked about them anyway.

The fact remains that in this case the medals of Cpl Kershaw were seen as a fact that could adversely influence the jury. His appearance may cause the jury to believe him to be honest and trustworthy. His appearance may secure him a conviction he wouldn’t get if not wearing them. Is this really the trust the judge and barrister had in the jury?

Then we find the two defendants were both allowed to wear a poppy. What does a poppy signify? What mindset might it engender in a jury? Someone who cares perhaps? Some one empathetic to the losses our military personnel have suffered over the years? An upstanding, compassionate and caring member of the community?Would the presence of the poppies ‘unfairly affect the jury’ or give a ‘false impression’ of the character of the defendants?

In the court room it is EVIDENCE that is king. Not the appearance of the witness. So it would seem that whilst we say appearance doesn’t matter and we should take people as they are… this doesn’t apply to medals in court because, it would seem, that ‘Looks matter’