Thanks to lists of UK police officers and staff on Twitter kept by Nick Keane from the College of Policing, I’ve created a page at lesscrime.info/policetweets showing the latest police tweets, most recent officers to join Twitter, most prolific tweeters and most popular feeds.
Social media has become a big deal within the police. Nick’s lists include more than 1,500 officers and staff, from chief constables down to beat officers, as well police dogs (e.g. @suspoldogunit) and horses (@WYPHorses). Most accounts send out updates on local crime and policing, but there are specialist officers as well: several helicopter units (@MPSinthesky, @WMP_Helicopter) live-tweet their operations to prevent complaints from residents about noise.
Standing apart from them all is the perfectly genuine @SolihullPolice, who have managed to get 27,000 followers—many of them far from Solihull—thanks to tweets like this, which got 22,000 retweets:
Anyone lost a huge amount of cannabis in the Chelmsley Wood area? Don’t panic, we found it. Please come to the police station to collect it.— Solihull Police (@SolihullPolice) December 7, 2012
Every UK force is now on Twitter, but not all are taking the same approach. Some, such as Greater Manchester and West Midlands, have fully embraced the medium by setting up accounts for officers and staff at all levels. Others have been more cautious: the Met only started experimenting with accounts for individual officers (starting with @MPSBatterseaSgt and @MPSFaradaySgt) earlier this year.
At the moment UK police are sending about 2,800 tweets each day. I’m storing the tweets from Nick’s list in a database, so after a year or so I should have a database large enough to
have taken up all my server space be useful for analysing different aspects of how the police use Twitter. @Alistair_Leak has already suggested using lists of followers to estimate how an officer’s followers compare to their local communities. Suggestions for other questions that could be answered with this data are welcome in the comments or—naturally—on Twitter: @lesscrime.
I’ll leave you with another gem from @SolihullPolice (I promise they do serious tweets too):
48 cans of Red Bull stolen from the BP Garage, Chester Rd - how do these people sleep at night…— Solihull Police (@SolihullPolice) January 30, 2013