You may have caught a story on 60 Minutes last week surrounding Stinson Hunter, a British man who in the last two years has helped convict 18 men of paedophilia.
The story made gripping television. It outlined how Stinson lures paedophile’s online and then films them coming to the real world meeting. All video footage is then passed on to the police and posted on the internet.
When asked why he does it, Stinson replies, “I want to know why he (the paedophile) is doing it and I want to put it on the internet.”
In my previous posts on this blog I have explored how PR has been changed by the advent of social media and this story got me thinking about the Police and how social media has been a complete game changer for them.
On the program Stinson makes contact with a suspect posing as an underage girl and after the suspect realises he’s been caught, he agrees to meet Stinson and defend himself. It’s extremely real and thankfully as close of many of us will ever get to meeting a paedophile.
The producers of 60 Minutes have painted him as a vigilante style super hero, someone who has overcome a rough past to protect our kids.
Seeking justice outside of the courts has many dangers, the most obvious being the falsely accusing someone and the irreparable damage that is done to their lives. At the end of the program you are left wondering if the end justifies the means.
The story is wrapped up with the mention of laws being changed in Britain to stop people like Stinson creating his own form of justice. Facebook lit up after the program aired with comments like “Why don’t the police hire him?!” and “Good on him, exposing the vermin of society”.
This post is not about Social Media and how paedophiles are manipulating it but instead I wanted to look at it from a different perspective and see how people’s perceptions of the police are rocked by their inability to accept help from social media do-gooders.
So, what has social media changed for the police? It allows popular opinion to be spread easily, it allows conversations to happen and agenda’s to be set without their input.
My previous post about Local Government adapting to the use of social media has some commonalities with this one. Organisations are now more accountable than ever for their productivity, the police are no different. Their future direction will be driven by social media, by creating good news stories that tell the story of how successful they as an organisation are and keeping public opinion in their favour.
Like it or lump it the PR machine at Police HQ will need to kick into a higher gear or they will face the tide turning on popular opinion.