July 27, 2008 By Jim McKay
While the security camera rolls, two police officers enter a convenience store where a robbery is in progress. The officers miss the shifty movements from the first man they see and fail to cover each other when they move in to arrest another man hiding in the back. Sensing an opportunity for a getaway, the first man pulls a gun from under his T-shirt and shoots the officers. Both robbers then run out the door.
Cover your partner. Don't ignore possible threats. This 10-year-old video conveys the message better than any training room slideshow could. BLUtube, a new online video sharing platform from San Francisco-based PoliceOne.com, is helping to ensure more messages are shared among the police officers who stand to learn from them.
"It sounds horrific, but if you break it down step by step, it's actually incredibly important that it's there where officers can see it," said Robert Dippell, PoliceOne's online director. "There are a lot of videos that are useful as situational examples where something went drastically wrong."
Today the site is fostering a library of law enforcement-related videos, some for serious training and others, which are lighthearted, uploaded by a handful of especially active members. The result is a video site with a narrower focus than the most popular video sites. BLUtube saves officers from typing "police" into a video search box and wading through '80s rock music videos and popular anti-police bits like the "Don't Tase Me, Bro" video.
Instead, BLUtube hosts traditional classroom training videos alongside dashboard-camera footage, crime-related local TV news segments, and reviews and promos for new products. PoliceOne also seeds the site with original content, while building a library of survivor stories and police narratives to serve its new video audience.
"We try to see what's going on in online technology and apply that to our market," said PoliceOne CEO Alex Ford. "As YouTube launched and became the phenomenon that it was, I started to think about how we can apply that trend and match it with what law enforcement does on an everyday basis."
The law enforcement community is a particularly apt target for online video, Ford said, because of the wealth of footage available and the importance of video during training. "It's been clear all along that law enforcement officers are very much visual learners, and video is an important component of their training," Ford said. "Most incorporate video in their training presentations, and they show video at roll call."
Dippell said BLUtube development began about a month before the site went live in mid-October 2007. Working with a third-party company (that Dippell declined to name), PoliceOne developers were able to get the site running quickly. "The platform itself was pretty straightforward," Dippell said. "The main thing was solidifying the sign-in functionality."
Laying Down the Law
In applying the YouTube model to law enforcement videos, one difference became clear early on: YouTube's extreme openness - relying on users to police its content and flag inappropriate or copyright-violating videos - wouldn't suit the content BLUtube would receive. Casual "community policing" wouldn't fly among a community of actual police.
There is plenty of public content on the site, but it's just a fraction of the 1,200 videos uploaded since BLUtube launched last year. The rest is accessible for free, but only to members who've verified they are, in fact, law enforcement community members.
That verification process requires everyone signing on with BLUtube and PoliceOne - the sites share a common membership - to enter a badge number and contact number for the agency that employs them. A member of PoliceOne's staff calls and confirms the applicant is a
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