Online critics met head-on by Warwickshire web police via Facebook

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As anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account will know, the internet isn’t always the most friendly or reasonable place.

But this hasn’t deterred Warwickshire Police from joining the online community with its own Facebook and Twitter account. As you might expect, there are some who have relished the opportunity to comment on the police’s work – some with more reasonable arguments and attitudes than others.

Corporate communications officer Sarah Fox explained the police’s decision to take to Facebook and converse with the people they serve. She said: “If we don’t engage with people on the networks they use, we are missing opportunities to get our message across about policing and having our voice in that conversation. By being open, honest and transparent, we can foster relationships with communities. Social media allows us to respond in real-time to people to let them know what’s happening in their area, dispel rumours and provide useful safety advice.

“The public will continue to converse on social media, with or without us, and we would much prefer to be an active participant!”

The nature of Warwickshire Police’s work often mean that occasionally users use inflammatory or insulting remarks about the organisation.

Sarah added: “Like any online public forum, there can be challenges but, in the most part, people do follow our house rules. Often, if someone is being unreasonable or rude, our other Facebook fans are quick to challenge this themselves, but we step in when we have to.”

So, how hard is it to cope when people do start being rude or confrontational? Sarah said: “Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and provided they don’t breach our house rules, we have no problem with people engaging with us about issues they may have with policing or the law in general Often these are based on misconceptions, which are happy to correct, but sometimes we simply have to agree to disagree. We aim to be open and honest in our engagements and that includes listening and responding to feedback from the public - whether that’s positive or negative.”

So far the approached is considered a success by police. The online media pages have allowed the police to share vital information with tens-of-thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t be connected with the police.

Sarah said: “Facebook and Twitter work really well for us when we have appeals for witnesses or when we are looking for missing persons. For example when a 16-year-old boy went missing from Ryton-upon-Dunsmore back in April this status update reached nearly 70,000 people and the information was shared 775 times. Currently an appeal to locate a missing 16-year-old boy from Bedworth has been viewed by 22,000 people.”

Search for Warwickshire Police on Facebook to join in.