of an investigation [and] those kinds of obvious things. We don't want them tweeting about that. We don't want them sending out press releases; we can do that. We want them having conversations with people, which is Twitter's tagline: "Join the Conversation."
This is a fairly small pilot; do you think you'd ultimately like to expand?
Definitely, we plan to expand it. We have a lot of people and we don't need everyone on Twitter, but it would be great to have a number of people, particularly in patrol, uniformed patrol and our detective divisions who are talking to our communities every single day.
How easy or difficult do you think it will be to change officers' mentalities to include this in their routines?
I think when they start seeing the positive interactions that come about as a result of these conversations, change will happen quickly. From my personal experience, when it comes to implementing any kind of organizational change around communication and technology, we have to show them why they should be invested, give them good reasons and show them the results. And when people see that they can talk to this person directly, set up community meetings, give the information that people really, really want — all from my cellphone — that's really quite empowering. I think once people experience that, they will come around.
Some might see this activity as taking away from policing duties. What is your reaction to that?
I think when it comes to making change, there are always cynics and a fear of change, a fear of what the change will mean for them. But really, Twitter, Facebook, all of the social media channels, they're no different from what was 10 years ago a regular cellphone, and before then, a telephone. These are all just other tools in our tool chest of ways to talk to and communicate with people. Five years from now, we will be having the same conversation about a different technology innovation, and how to incorporate it into our daily lives. We had the same conversation about email, and now email is a regular part of our lives; for some people it's even passé. Some rely strictly on text messaging. So it is a complement to what they are already doing.
How will this ultimately aid in policing efforts?
I think it will help them become connected to their communities much quicker than perhaps they expect. I also think if people know who is on the other end -- if they can put a face to whose on that account — they're more likely to give more information when it comes to solving a crime. Joe Murray has provided an excellent example of that. He's gotten a lot of tips. People email him every single day with tips because of the information he's putting out on Twitter. He's using social media to build trust in our communities, and that's the best possible outcome — these channels, they bring people closer to the department, they build trust over time, people get to know us and our communities become safer.