Fleetwood, Thˇr¸se & Joneby, Felicia

ÓTwitter in the service of the Swedish PoliceÓ

Abstract

Social media is a central part of our everyday life and a place where more and more companies and governments are presented.  As a consequence, the boundaries between each individualÕs private area and the public area become vague. The questions this phenomenon raises is not only to what extent companies should be granted access to each individuals' private sphere, but also the contrary; what happens when individuals are allowed access to the private area of the companies?

Our report investigates this phenomenon within the Swedish police where police officers are using Twitter to form a dialogue with the public regarding the everyday work of the Police. We asked them why they tweet, how it all started and how they look upon themselves as senders and the public as recipients. The question we intend to answer using these questions are "How does the Swedish Police use Twitter to reach out to the public and what do the police officers who use Twitter think of their usage?".

To answer this question we have interviewed six police officers that use Twitter in their every day work. All of them serve in Stockholm and are official tweeting police officers, which means the Swedish Police Authority approves them. Our result shows that almost every one of the interviewed police officers begun to tweet because of a committed colleague or because of positive experiences of Twitter. All of them report that they aim to improve the public image of the police and to give a human face to the Police Authority. They are also hoping to increase the public safety and reduce the crime rates in the community.

Furthermore we did an analysis of the Twitter accounts used by the interviewed police officers. The analysis gave a large amount of quantitative data regarding their usage of Twitter, which provided a richer image of their tweeting.

We found that the official tweeting police officers can be divided into two different categories according to their usage of Twitter; the social twitterers and the professional twitterers. The social twitterer is very committed to his tweeting and spends time to phrase his tweets in an entertaining and humorous way. The amount of followers is important and he spends time to interact with his followers, raise questions and answer questions. The professional twitterer on the other hand uses his Twitter account as a strategic work tool and he cares a lot for the consequences of every tweet that he writes. Therefor he is quite subtle and cautious when he formulates his tweets.

Our study shows that the use of Twitter of the police in Stockholm is a new phenomenon for the organization that has not yet been given well-established rules and attitudes. The allocated working time of 2 hours per week for the tweeting police officers to use Twitter is not enough to maintain their accounts in a reasonable manner. Also the routines for archiving the Twitter accounts appear to be difficult to follow and it should be assessed whether they really are necessary. The tutorials available for the tweeting police officers are sometimes contradictory and an updated with the experience of the police officers that have been using Twitter at hand is in our opinion much needed.

This phenomenon appears to us as being very new and unexamined within the Swedish Police.   In our opinion the Police could with a little funding and a greater awareness and priority within the organization develop their presence in the social media a great deal. This would also improve their relations with the public and raise the understanding for the work the police are conducting on an every day basis.