The Story of a PCSO on Twitter
The full interview… with PCSO Andy Ryan
PCSO Andy Ryan is one of the biggest tweeters of the policing world. He has over 1,600 followers and is well respected within the policing and law enforcement community on Twitter. Onthebeat101 gets the low-down on why he started tweeting, what it’s like, and how to do it…
Your Twitter account is very much a professional profile – how and why did it come about?
I attended a social media conference in 2010 run by West Midlands Police. Guest speakers at the event were police officers, police staff and PCSOs all of whom had started to use social media, including Twitter, as a way of communicating with their community. I left the conference that day inspired by what I had heard and realised that neighbourhood policing is about listening and communicating with your community and identifying new ways to do that.
“neighbourhood policing is about listening and communicating with your community”
That’s when I decided to open a Twitter account to engage with those members of the local community who we may not get to speak to, such as those who may not want to attend police tasking meetings, or read newspapers.
“engage with those members of the local community who we may not get to speak to”
What role does Twitter play in your job as a PCSO?
Twitter plays an important role as it enables me to communicate details of events run or attended by my neighbourhood team. It lets me advertise details of tasking meetings, local problems like road closures due to traffic collisions, and most importantly it lets me inform the local community about what the team are doing to solve local issues in the community that have been raised as a concern. Twitter also enables me to send out important crime prevention advice which again not only goes out to the local community but is also read by all of my followers across the UK and more importantly can be re-tweeted to thousands more.
“It helps us raise trust and confidence within our communities”
What benefits do you think Social media can bring to PCSOs and to policing more generally?
Social media means information can be sent out to people almost instantly and really easily, which is great – especially in the current climate of needing cost-efficient ways of communicating with our community. It also helps us raise trust and confidence within our communities, as it allows us to directly show people what we have done, and what we are doing to solve local priorities.
“it’s important that you provide regular, local, relevant, and informative information”
I cannot think of any downsides to becoming a tweeter. But, anyone thinking of using Twitter in this way has to realise that it’s important that you provide regular, local, relevant, and informative information to your followers. It isn’t just a fad, it is an important channel of communication and engagement.
Your followers will also want to get to know the individual officer as a person – after all you are there local officer and you should still be a visible and recognisable presence in the community.
How much time do you spend tweeting each day?
It’s hard to measure how much time I spend tweeting, but it in no way takes time away from what I would usually be doing anyway. I tend to update in the morning with the plans for the day, like where I will be if people want to see me. Updates are added if I’m travelling on public transport or on a refreshment break and also at the end of the day.
“It also allows us to reassure our communities and make people feel safe”
Some people would say that it’s a PCSOs job to be tackling crime on the beat and tweeting is a waste of time and resources – what would you say to them?
Tackling crime involves taking a proactive approach to reducing crime and this can be done in many ways such as sending out crime prevention advice, gathering intelligence, being informed as to what, when and where problems are occurring all of this can now also be carried out with the aide of social media including Twitter and at a very low cost. It also allows us to reassure our communities and make people feel safe – it’s no good solving problems and reducing crime if people don’t know about it to feel safer!
Would you encourage other PCSOs to have professional accounts?
I would definitely encourage other PCSOs to use twitter as an additional way of communicating with their neighbourhood but also remind them to remain committed to it once they start.
And if you’re not already, you can follow PCSO Andy Ryan by visiting his Twitter page.