Why blog about recent events in the police force? Well the purpose of my blog is to capture key learning points, reflections and even events as they emerge, which both influence my PhD research and my work role. So when @teaandtalking live tweeted her experience from an inpatient ward I thought that was a formative moment and, with her support, blogged about it. Over the last week the mental health social media sphere has been buzzing with the suspension and resumption of Inspector Michael Brown aka @mentalhealthcop’s Twitter and blog accounts. I don’t intend to describe what happened but you can check out @Sectioned_ excellent summary if you aren’t aware of it or would like to find out more.
I haven’t pestered @mentalhealthcop for an interview as he quite rightly wishes to not discuss the event in public. I am also not going to speculate about the whys and wherefores of what happened. However, with @mentalhealthcop’s blessing, I am going to share a few thoughts and reflections on what this episode might mean for public sector professionals and institutions in social media spaces.
Back to the beginning (for me at least)
Over the last few years Twitter and blogging, as well as other platforms, have become increasingly mainstream in the public sector. With more and more people (particularly those in formal leadership positions) entering these spaces, and with the advent of social media guidelines for pretty much every professional group, Twitter and other platforms are increasingly being recognised and promoted as legitimate spaces for professionals to occupy.
Are the stakes higher?
My sense of what happened to @mentalhealthcop is that the stakes feel suddenly higher than a week ago – anyone can say something flippant (goodness knows I have…) make an error of judgement or have a well-intentioned tweet misinterpreted, but it might shock us to think that this could end up the subject of public debate and even hit the mainstream media. The separation of professionally led journalism and citizen led journalism (such as blogging) are increasingly collapsing – with one informing the other and in reverse.
It is important t(hat people in public positions are impeccable in their behaviour in social media spaces – following guidelines and applying the offline rule ‘what would I do if this happened offline?’) I was struck by the kindness and support of @mentalhealthcop’s online community – his strong personal and professional reputation paid off. For the institution concerned it was another matter – a warning to others that what appears to be a draconian or disproportionate approach may have negative reputational implications. Institutions (or that is their bosses and communication functions) needs to be thinking as much about their own reputation as do the people who work for them.
One tiny bit of speculation
The one and only bit of speculation I will allow myself in this post is to wonder whether the police force in question acted proportionately and if the consequences of their behaviours in managing this situation may have negative/draconian ramifications for public sector professionals and institutions in the future. I do hope not. Time will tell.
If you haven’t read Inspector Brown’s blog then I recommend it – you can find it here.