Taking a public safety message to the street with Twitcam
Kerry Blakeman, a Chief Inspector at West Midlands Police (Coventry) in England, had observed his daughter watching a live broadcast of, and sending messages to, a pop star via Twitcam. Then, it occurred to him, why not “give it a go” for policing? “So I thought actually I could do a live broadcast and people don’t have to leave their home. They can ask me questions about policing in Coventry... I wanted to reach out to different members of the community specifically young people who rarely come to one of our meetings,” he said.
Taking the Public Safety Dialog on the Road
With the borrowed wifi, a cheap webcam, a tripod, and a laptop, they were in business and could set up anywhere.
Since Blakeman’s solo dining room broadcast, they’ve done three broadcasts together. The first was March 22nd, and can be viewed here. Their most recent on May 25th is in two parts, here and here. Both men agree the technology is a promising way reach the citizens they serve and address whatever is on the citizens’ minds right where they live. Shilton pointed out it’s a learning process and very much an experiment, “It’s new for us... we’re just learning as we go along”, he said.Blakeman concurs that right now they’re proving the concept and acknowledges there have been challenges, such as being asked a tough question and having to answer it live. He points to the time he was asked to justify use of force during a burglary, “you’ve really got to think on your feet. But when you get done, there’s a real feeling of - I’ve just achieved something. I’ve just represented the service well.”
So far, online viewers have numbered fewer than 30 but have included someone from Dubai and from the RCMP in Canada. Some locals also turn-out to watch in person. In one case, a boy-scout troop was in the audience. Even with a smallish audience they’ve already received intel from “younger people in terms of the kind of issues that we don’t normally get to hear about, like drug abuse and drug dealing,” said Blakeman. It works both ways because the citizens receive some great information as well. Blakeman said he might include a police demo in a future broadcast, perhaps even a taser demonstration.
What is Twitcam?
To assist his colleagues, Blakeman wrote a Twitcam guide with step by step instructions and a synopsis of the questions and comments from citizens. Here is a representative sample:
Colleagues are Noticing
Shilton and Blakeman have plans for many more public broadcasts. Shilton added, “We’re happy that people are logging on and interested in what we have to say. The proof in the pudding will be if we start losing viewers. That’ll be the message to us that we’re not doing things right. As long as we keep growing in numbers, we’ll know that we’re hitting the right mark.”
So if you happen to find yourself in Coventry and see a cop and a firefighter talking to a tiny camera, know that what you don’t see is probably dozens, if not by then 100s of Coventry citizens receiving some fantastic public safety service from a couple of very dedicated and forward-thinking first responders.
This article was previously published on ConnectedCOPS.net.
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