It is the Christmas holiday season and the weekend where the first of the holiday parties start in business districts. Restaurants, hotels, bars love this time of year as so many harried workers and executives sign off from work for a night of eats, conversation and, well, drinks. Also the time when police ramp up their anti-drinking driving campaigns – yes, the road blocks are back. This is where social media, and frankly a conscience, matters both on behalf of the public enjoying a night out and the police who are there for public safety, and raising awareness.
However, a tweet from the Vancouver BC police department immediately raised my interest:
What do you think of people tweeting out the locations of #CounterAttack roadblocks? We feel this is counter productive to public safety.
— Vancouver Police (@VancouverPD) December 9, 2012
So, while Vancouver PD was asking people to send in photos and videos of the famous hockey riot, and then also asking the same audience to identify people from that material, they are now publishing a policy ‘don’t post’. This is the anti=thesis of social media, the ability for anyone at anytime to report on events happening in their lives. So, what if someone takes a photo and tweets – ‘Got stopped at X/Y cross road, passed the test – and kudos to Van PD on making our roads safe‘ vs ‘Hey folks – Roadblock at X/Y street, avoid the area‘? Either message increases awareness, and each is the same problem for the police department – identifying the location.
Fact is we are all journalists. That should not be hampered by any official body, it is a fundamental aspect of contemporary life that people have the ability to post the immediacy of situations via Twitter, Facebook – through status updates, photos and videos – using smart phones and tablets. For the Vancouver police department to even question that raises a more profound thought – why are they even raising the issue? Do they want control over Social Media accounts so nobody can post about certain operations?
Policing is built on trust, and certainly in terms of drink driving, speeding, cyclist and pedestrian awareness, the active road blocks; and further community awareness with school programs, community groups et al help. To ask the public NOT TO POST, to be controlled, and trying to control the public about raising that issue – well, that is simply a communication, and engagement, failure.
Recognize, no matter how large and powerful your organization, the public are far larger – and if they get their game up over an issue, you are beaten.
If you want the conversation, then let’s do it