In a report addressing the problems faced by the Metropolitan Police during the London riots last August, and the lessons learnt, social media has appeared as a key topic. The Met have admitted that not only have they been too ‘risk averse’ in their use of social media, but that this failure had real implications for the effectiveness of policing during the four days that riots spread across the capital. Notably, the Met have said that:
The Met have accepted that not only is social media an effective way of gathering information, but it is also a vital means of reassurance and providing instant, reliable information which in turn will build trust in the force and stronger relationships with communities. Following this failure to exploit the new opportunities provided by social media during the crucial days of the riots, the Met have launched a new social media strategy aiming to create networks of both information to the Met, and reliable communication from them. Plans include all 32 boroughs having a Twitter account which can be followed and contacted for up-to-date local information. Eight boroughs already have the service, with the rest to follow. Two official Met police Twitter accounts already exist, @metpoliceuk and @CO11MetPolice, and work is now in place to make them more effective and personable as a key communicative tool for the police force in London. Similarly @MPSOnTheStreet, a Twitter account which is taken over by an officer, or an individual force each day, is hoped to provide personal, detailed information of the day-to-day activities of the Metropolitan Police and encourage a culture of transparency between the force and the public. Facebook and live-streaming facility Bambuser, will also be used according to the report, however Twitter seems to be the main focus for their social media drive. In the report the Met also revealed that they are working to create MPS ‘personalities’, which the public can follow via Twitter and personal blogs. While the acceptance of their failure during the riots to successfully use social media as a means of information gathering and communication to the public is a step forward, the forced nature of their new initiative is in danger of becoming ‘the Metropolitan Police show’ and hindering, not aiding transparency between themselves and the public.