The Kernow One

It is with real sadness that we seem to have lost another popular police Twitter account.
Until yesterday, PC Alice Nicholas aka @KernowCop was regularly updating the world with details of her life as a police officer.Alice’s popularity is not in question nor is the quality of what she was doing on social media. You can tell by the number of followers she had and one of her recent tweets regarding a surprisingly lenient sentence went viral and led to newspaper coverage. 

Her tweets were bright, enlightening and, perhaps more importantly, human. There is no doubt she was connecting with people in the best possible way and is a fine ambassador for police use of social media.

And then yesterday – seemingly out of the blue – she posted this:

This came as a shock to everyone and the thread beneath that tweet shows genuine sorrow that she has taken the decision.

I do not know the reasons why but I cannot help but wonder if it isn’t connected to this tweet from a few days previously.

Up until this point Alice was a hugely prolific tweeter. Once this tweet went up things began to slow down.

Now I could be wrong here but I’m wondering if she has managed to unintentionally say “the wrong thing” and whether this has led to words being spoken.

The circumstances would suggest that Alice was kicked in the face by someone who was experiencing a mental health crisis and she has outrightly challenged the decision making of another agency.

If this has led to her being challenged then I simply ask this. Is this tweet so different?

Or these?

There is a great deal of talk in policing at the moment about challenging. Someone even said that “deference is dead” and that rank means less and less. If you were to read tweets and blogs relating to proposed culture change in policing then it is all about not being afraid to speak up. It’s about saying “this isn’t right and we need to do something about it.” It suggests that rank and experience are not, in and of themselves, a true measure of importance or expertise.

Sadly, however, it still seems that you can only openly challenge things – particularly other agencies – if you are above a certain rank. There are many examples of tweets from senior officers questioning or challenging other organisations’, even political, decisions but this seems to still be unacceptable for less senior ranks.

Don’t get me wrong – you can’t have a free for all with every officer moaning because an ambulance didn’t turn up quickly enough in their mind or because CPS decide not to progress a case they’ve been working on.

Equally you can’t have officers openly criticising government policy on official accounts but – it has happened – and from some very senior officers.

I may be wrong on this. Alice may have other reasons for deciding to quit Twitter but it would be a great shame if she has been made to feel pressure for speaking her mind.

At worst, if this is the issue, then it deserved nothing more than a simple “maybe not wise” conversation but the fact she has chosen to close the account suggests she felt nervous enough to do so.

The fact that this seems to be the default position for many people who have been spoken to about something they tweeted is concerning.

Has a sledgehammer cracked a nut once again?

As I have said in a previous blog hosted by @GemmaPettmanPR organisations should be actively encouraging their staff to use social media to speak with people. They shouldn’t be scaring the bejesus out of them if they make a minor error of judgement.

The more human and real the account the better this conversation will be. It wins support and understanding and often the mistakes which get taken so seriously internally are barely even noticed. Until action is taken which then draws attention to it.

Sometimes people take offence – sometimes it is faux outrage (see the Lewisham St Patrick’s Day Tweet for further details) but a simple apology and move on is usually more than enough to deal with the issue. There are far fewer examples of people really getting it very badly wrong.

We need people on the front line tweeting and commentating. All organisations do. It opens lines of communication and is another form of direct contact and information sharing.

Alice was very good at it, she is respected by her peers and the public loved her. If she is reading this I would actively encourage her to think again.

If someone higher up thinks she shouldn’t be tweeting? I would actively encourage them to think again as well.


2 responses to “The Kernow One”

  1. Jane says :

    I think corporate comms have over reacted to this, if we all had official police accounts…. We would all sound like robots quoting buzz words and not engaging with the public in a more human level.
    The social media aspect seems to flow well until some jobs worth puts their footdown. Alice is a very likeable officer on Twitter that successfully reached an audience in a human way.
    I could not post in an official capacity because our media office I sits official tweeters give them our passwords for them to monitor and read our tweets (also open to PSD monitoring)
    Well done Nathan for blogging this.

  2. David says :

    Clearly the police service has an issue with diversity of opinion, whereas it “bends over backwards” on acceptable causes, e.g. LGBT.

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