Posts Tagged 'Flickr'

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!

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time…

One of the most innovative, and popular, users of Twitter is the force helicopter but how can we improve our use of social media in the future?

As a quick intro, the below post is on the topic of how organisations like the police might make better use of social media in the future. As such it’s likely to appeal mainly to those working in this field. If you’re not in that bracket and fancy reading anyway, please feel free to do so. Otherwise you have my permission to hop off this page and use the Internet to search for videos of talking dogs.

Over the past three years or so I think it’s fair to say that police forces have really awoken to the possibilities of using social media to help engage with the public. I’ve written in the past about both the general benefits of embracing new forms of communication and on how it can be useful in specific incidents, and I continue to be a keen advocate of the medium.

West Midlands Police, the Greater Manchester and Sussex forces have driven forward the expansion of emergency services using social media and we’ve seen some great examples of it being used to help break down barriers between police and public.

Taking my own force as an example, our official Twitter feed has over 30,000 followers, our Facebook page over 10,000 fans and videos on our YouTube channel have been viewed in excess of 1,400,000 times. We actively encourage officers and departments to get involved (see the ever expanding list for examples), have some of our very highest ranking officers using Twitter (ACC Forsyth and ACC Beale) and we have won national recognition for our work.

As the use of social media grows, both by police forces and the public, where might we take the medium in the future? How might we improve our usage and by doing so, improve upon the service we can offer to the public?

Below and in no particular order are a few of my thoughts on where I see opportunities to make fuller use of social media by emergency services, partner agencies and their users. Not wanting this blog to be too long, I’ll try be brief and encourage feedback from anyone with an interest in the area:

  • Improve direct communication between police leadership and public – One of the key benefits of social media is that it affords us the opportunity to make use of a two way channel of communication between police and public. This can be particularly useful when employed by senior officers who are in a position to give a general overview of policing an area as they can get their message out directly to the people living in that area. To illustrate this point, I can give an idea about individual incidents from the point of view of a response officer but I can’t speak for the Walsall LPU as a whole as I’m not in a position to do so. Superintendent Fraser, however, can do so and makes good use of Twitter to keep the public informed about developments in Walsall. Other excellent examples of social media being used at this level are Superintendent Payne and Chief Superintendent Bourner.
  • Make better use of online beat surgeries – In the past I’ve ran a couple of ‘Tweet & Greet’ events (see here for an example) during which I’ve taken over a Twitter feed for an hour and encouraged people to ask questions live. These have been very successful and shown the potential for involving people who may not otherwise have contact with the police. Whilst opportunities to meet officers at beat surgeries are invaluable, virtual meetings can run alongside conventional events and help build closer bonds between neighbourhood teams and those living in the neighbourhoods.
  • Closer ties between social media and investigations, appeals – Amongst the many applications of social media, one that is perhaps the least developed is the potential for the use of the direct channel of communication to help investigate crime. Traditional poster appeals and door to door enquiries can be supported by social media campaigns that not only have the capability to reach more people but also can be targeted at a specific audience. During our response to the riots, Operation View made extensive use of the website to publish CCTV stills for identification with the public encouraged to contact us and help with the investigation. For future investigations, the application of Facebook and other such sites should feature early on as a formal part of investigations to help identify witnesses etc.
  • Share knowledge internally – Social media works well for sharing information with the public but equally so can be used to communicate with staff inside the organisation. We already have good examples of it being used in this manner with DCC Thompson maintaining a blog to update staff on issues concerning the force and with Inspector Brown’s mental health blog featuring a Q&A written for the benefit of police officers. Facilitating communication within the force can be of great use (I’ve lost count of the amount of times of contacted PC Jennings through Twitter with traffic law questions) and it’d be beneficial to identify other posts and departments which could use social media to help further understanding of their roles.
  • Make better use of Facebook – As far as social media sites go, Facebook is by far the biggest, most used network with three quarters of the UK population holding an account. Twitter is important too although at the current time, there are less than half the number of Twitter users than there are those on Facebook hence when it comes to where efforts are best concentrated, it would appear that Facebook is the site we should be focusing on.
  • More work to publicise social media accounts – Regularly updating a Twitter feed or Facebook page with good quality information is all very well but if it only reaches a small amount of people, how useful is the service? Once forces have identified people and departments interested in using social media, there needs to be some proactive work to help bring the account to the public’s attention and attract followers.
  • Appeal for more users within force – Looking at how the use of social media has grown within the force and speaking to other partner agencies using it, it becomes apparent that the growth is not necessarily even. Some departments have taken to it readily, others less so and I think this can partly be explained by the fact that the best profiles are maintained by those people who are open to the idea of using social media and are keen to explore it. Such people are not necessarily evenly distributed hence neither will the accounts be. As social media becomes more established (something helped greatly by more senior officers using it), coverage will likely improve with it being accepted that it is through social media that the majority of the public communicate and so it is beneficial to maintain an online presence.
  • Help officers understand social media – Even if police officers do not use social media themselves, an understanding of how it works is important when it comes to investigating reports of crimes being committed through the use of social networking sites. Without such an understanding officers are likely to find themselves at a disadvantage with the quality of an investigation being limited by a lack of knowledge about how social networks operate and what steps can be taken to prevent offences.
  • Be adventurous – Social media sites are constantly updating themselves and call upon us as users to be ready to play around with the new features to make the most of what the sites offer. We need to be alive to the new features added and be quick to work out how best we can use them to help advance our ambitions. Chief Inspector Blakeman, as an example, has made innovative use of online broadcasting (Bambuster in particular) to inform people in Coventry about what their police is doing and really leads the field in this area.

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