Look at us through the lens of a camera…

Meet The BeatRichard Eccleston, Lloyd House, Birmingham West & Central LPU

Puppies, helicopters, men with big old sideburns wearing stove-pipe hats.

What do they all have in common? Yes, that’s right – all have featured at one point or another as part of West Midlands Police’s outrageously popular ‘Photo of the Day‘ project on Flickr.

Viewed over 800,000 times by (give or take) 1,600,000 eyes, the gallery comprises of a range of modern and historic photos illustrating the work done around the Force on a daily basis.

You may have recently seen BBC Midlands Today reporting on the success of the gallery but who are the team responsible for the project?

In this Meet The Beat interview, allow me to introduce Richard Eccleston – communications officer and inspiration behind the idea.

Richard Eccleston making a cameo for Photo of the Day

Starting off, can you tell us a little but about the role you fill at West Midlands Police?

Hi Rich, thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions for this ‘Meet The Beat’ interview. I am a Territorial Communications Officer working for the Force Corporate Communications Department. I am responsible for sharing information and policing updates across the Birmingham West and Central and Birmingham South Local Policing Units.

This role sees me actively creating and sharing pro-active press releases and news stories via several channels including our websites, Facebook, Twitter, hyperlocal blogs and community groups.

I am also responsible for creating more traditional forms of communication including resident letters and community newsletters.

How long have you worked for WMP? What had you done before joining the Force?

I have worked for the Force for almost 5 years, beginning in Sandwell and moving across to Birmingham in 2010. Before working for West Midlands Police, I was working part-time for Wolverhampton Art Gallery while finishing my studies. I also created several websites for local musicians and bands.

You manage WMP’s incredibly popular Flickr account, how did the idea come around to start using Flickr?

To cut a long story short, I conducted my own ‘Photo of the Day’ project via Facebook in 2011 to ensure I actually got some use out of my camera phone.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it my photo updates were becoming the topic of most of my conversations with friends and work colleagues. Highlights of my personal project included death defying stunts, underwater images and my nan’s famous roast dinners.

I decided to pitch my idea to the Force in December and it was agreed that Flickr would be the best way of showcasing the work undertaken by officers and police staff on a daily basis.

The Force has set upon a project to update a new photo every day for a whole year. How is that coming along? Where do the photos come from?

It is quite possibly the most exhausting project I have ever been involved with! Thankfully, due to the sheer breadth of work undertaken across the whole Force area, I have been able to keep the images fresh and different since beginning the project on 1 January 2012. We are almost 300 days into the project now and I am still taking things day by day!

The photos come from a variety of sources. The majority are taken by our fantastic photographer Graham Bedingfield. Graham is incredibly busy and works across the entire Force area snapping images from drug raids to car seizures, youth groups to police surgeries, police dogs to the Force helicopter. Graham also takes generic officer images for use on all of our websites.

We have also tapped into our archives to share older photographs which date right the way back to the early 1900s.

Another option being discussed is Crowdsourcing images from the public. Many people are bound to have old images of family members during their service in the police and we are hoping to publicise some of these sometime soon.

There are a selection of old and new photos on the Flickr account – which ones have been the most popular and do you have any particular favourites?

The most popular photographs so far seem to be police puppies, drug warrants, firearms images, police puppies, specialist pieces of equipment, historical images and, of course, police puppies!

My personal favourite is probably Day 200 – a great photograph showing almost all of our specialist policing units together. I have also made cameo appearances in three or four of the images, so of course they are some of the best!

How have the public responded to the photos? What has the feedback been like?

Feedback from the public has been incredibly positive and we have received more than 800,000 views on Flickr since the beginning of the year.

We get numerous comments every day regarding our images, especially photographs of kit and equipment that many people may not have seen before.

Can people submit photos to you, perhaps if they have historic WMP photos that they think you might be interested in?

As mentioned previously, we are looking to Crowdsource images later this year. I would advise people to follow us on Twitter or Facebook for further information about this. It would be great to share some really interesting images that may have been sitting in cupboards and drawers for decades!

Are there any plans for next year? Might you start photo of the day again or are there other plans in the pipeline?

There are a few interesting plans in the pipeline but I am taking each and every day as it comes with a project as big as this. My best answer would be to simply wait and see!

If anybody has any suggestions around what images they would like to see, please leave your comments below. Thanks!

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