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Social media provide police boost

A police officer believed to be the first in the country to broadcast incidents live on the web has said video platforms can change how forces engage with their community.

Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman of West Midlands Police praised the use of social media and video platforms as a way of increasing public confidence in the emergency services.

Mr Blakeman said streaming recordings live on social media sites like Twitter has helped him interact with a younger audience in the region, allowing them to join in with discussions and gain a better understanding of the emergency services.

He spoke alongside representatives from Google, Facebook and LinkedIn at the Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement conference in California, which aims to help law enforcers understand the power of social media.

After first establishing a presence on Twitter, attracting tens of thousands of followers, the chief inspector said he decided to give the public 'behind the scenes' access through live videos.

The idea was born after he saw his daughter watch One Direction star Harry Styles attempt to build up his fan base by interacting with his fans online.

He said: "I go to public meetings and I have the same usual suspects, which is great... but here is a chance for me to engage with potentially younger people who don't normally come to resident meetings. I thought anything Harry Styles can do, I can match it."

He launched his plan by using TwitCam, recording police updates by him and his colleagues on his webcam from his dining room. He said he believes he then became the first person in the police to take his laptop to the streets and live stream discussions between officers and members of the public.

The initiative moved on with the use of Bambusa, which allows Mr Blakeman to stream live from his smart phone on to Twitter where ongoing incidents are posted. The force also has its own YouTube channel with three million views.

It is now beginning to use Google Plus Hangouts, an online forum which allows members of the public to join group video chats.

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