Wednesday 18 January 2012

Invitation to BlueLightCamp - 15th April 2012

What is BlueLightCamp?
BlueLightCamp is a totally new, day-long ‘unconference’ style event, taking place on Sunday 15th April 2012 between 9am and 5pm at Manchester Central exhibition centre. It will be a free, open and fluidic day of sharing experiences, thoughts and best practice across all Blue Light Services.

BlueLightCamp is working in partnership with British APCO to deliver this event before the annual Exhibition and Development Sessions, which takes place from Monday 16th to Tuesday 17th April 2012.

Who can attend?
BlueLightCamp is open to all the UK front-line Blue Light Services, including, though certainly not limited to:
  • Fire Services
  • Police Authorities
  • Ambulance Services 
  • Front-line Social Care Providers

How to register?
The organisers hope to have 170 representatives from Blue Light Services and associated partners present on the day to make this an event to remember. Tickets are available here and best of all it’s totally free! There is likely to be a lot of interest in this event, so visitors are encouraged to sign up as quickly as possible to avoid disappointment.

Find out more 
Further information about BlueLightCamp is available at

British APCO Exhibition & Development Sessions
Visitors to BlueLightCamp on Sunday 15th April are invited to stick around for the British APCO Exhibition and Development Sessions, taking place on Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th April at Manchester Central. Your BlueLightCamp badge will give you free access to the exhibition, where there will be more on the social media front with a series of free social media advice surgeries.
For further information about the Exhibition and Development Sessions, please visit

Thursday 30 June 2011


I saw some Twitter conversations this evening asking how the police make use of YouTube so I though it was about time I put up a list of key information on the blog.

City of London Police
No YouTube

Metropolitan Police Service
Videos: 57
Channel Views: 64,900
Total Upload Views: 430,300
Joined: 1 Jul 2009
Subscribers: 910

Bedfordshire Police
Videos: 7
Channel Views: 1,259
Total Upload Views: 3,321
Joined: 3 Dec 2009

Cambridgeshire Constabulary
Videos: 27
Channel Views: 10,769
Total Upload Views: 399,313
Joined: 29 Oct 2009
Subscribers: 126

Essex Police
Videos: 109
Channel Views: 28,319
Total Upload Views: 472,617
Joined: 10 Dec 2008
Subscribers: 197

Hertfordshire Constabulary
Videos: 57
Channel Views: 29,958
Total Upload Views: 509,616
Joined: 25 Nov 2008
Subscribers: 337

Norfolk Constabulary
Videos: 35
Channel Views: 7,503
Total Upload Views: 13,794
Joined: 24 Apr 2009
Subscribers: 33

Suffolk Constabulary
Videos: 0
Channel Views: 14
Total Upload Views: 0
Joined: 18 Jan 2011
Subscribers: 0

Hampshire Constabulary
Videos: 36
Channel Views: 7,780
Total Upload Views: 26,917
Joined: 30 June 2009
Subscribers: 57

Kent Police
Videos: 46
Channel Views: 11,316
Total Upload Views: 85,030
Subscribers: 100

Surrey Police
Videos: 48
Channel Views: 6,400
Total Upload Views: 69,018
Joined: 11 Oct 2007
Subscribers: 70

Sussex Police
Videos: 43
Channel Views: 9,798
Joined: 9 May 2010

Thames Valley Police
Videos: 103
Channel Views: 44,171
Total Upload Views: 246,553
Joined: 3 Feb 2009
Subscribers: 221

Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Videos: 139
Channel Views: 41,951
Total Upload Views: 1,023,893
Joined: 28 Mar 2007
Subscribers: 426

Devon and Cornwall Constabulary
Videos: 13
Channel Views: 23,107
Total Upload Views: 173,296
Joined: 1 Jun 2007
Subscribers: 187

Dorset Police
Videos: 36
Channel Views: 2,737
Total Upload Views: 43,021
Joined: 15 Oct 2008

Gloucestershire Constabulary
Videos: 7
Channel Views: 498
Total Upload Views: 11,297
Joined: 27 Oct 2009
Subscribers: 4

Wiltshire Constabulary
Videos: 6
Channel Views: 701
Total Upload Views: 1,427
Joined: 27 June 2008
Subscribers: 6

Derbyshire Constabulary
Videos: 5
Channel Views: 1,070
Total Upload Views: 5,274
Joined: 16 July 2008
Subscribers: 12

Leicestershire Constabulary
Videos: 35
Channel Views: 18,336
Total Upload Views: 84,210
Joined: 28 Jan 2009
Subscribers: 64

Lincolnshire Police
Videos: 44
Channel Views: 16,971
Total Upload Views: 91,505
Joined: 5 Jun 2009
Subscribers: 103

Northamptonshire Police
Videos: 13
Channel Views: 8,335
Total Upload Views: 70,131
Joined: 1 Jul 2009
Subscribers: 68

Nottinghamshire Police
Videos: 55
Channel Views: 8,681
Total Upload Views: 33,121
Joined: 9 Jul 2009
Subscribers: 43

Staffordshire Police
Videos: 46
Channel Views: 15,386
Total Upload Views: 74,672
Joined:30 Apr 2009
Subscribers: 69

Warwickshire Police
Video: 1
Channel Views: 64
Total Upload Views: 551
Joined: 23 Jun 2011
Subscribers: 2

West Mercia Police
Videos: 3
Channel Views: 1,988
Total Upload Views: 10,236
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

West Midlands Police
Videos: 116
Channel Views: 44,507
Total Upload Views: 571,734
Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Subscribers: 375

Cleveland Police
Videos: 7
Channel Views: 1,072
Total Upload Views: 1,824
Joined: 20 Oct 2009
Subscribers: 4

Durham Constabulary
Videos: 33
Channel Views: 2,786
Total Upload Views: 24,200
Joined: 29 Jan 2008
Subscribers: 29

Humberside Police
Videos: 0
Channel Views: 17
Total Upload Views: 0
Joined: 14 Jul 2008
Subscribers: 0

North Yorkshire Police
Videos: 18
Channel Views: 12,696
Total Upload Views: 16,173
Joined: 17 Aug 2009
Subscribers: 40

Northumbria Police
Videos: 64
Channel Views: 61,714
Total Upload Views: 46,788
Joined: 31 Dec 2007
Subscribers: 83

South Yorkshire Police
Videos: 4
Channel Views: 206
Total Upload Views: 1,175
Joined: 6 Jun 2008
Subscribers: 0

West Yorkshire Police
Videos: 205
Channel Views: 17,775
Total Upload Views: 256,468
Joined: 10 Oct 2006
Subscribers: 231

Cheshire Constabulary
Videos: 63
Channel Views: 25,450
Total Upload Views: 129,184
Joined: 18 May 2007

Cumbria Constabulary
Videos: 36
Channel Views: 7,778
Total Upload Views: 33,252
Joined: 13 Mar 2009
Subscribers: 48

Greater Manchester Police
Videos: 105
Channel Views: 50,009
Total Upload Views: 741,797
Joined: 28 Sep 2006
Subscribers: 400

Merseyside Police
Videos: 120
Channel Views: 12,101
Total Upload Views: 80,610
Joined: 17 Aug 2007
Subscribers: 78

Lancashire Constabulary NOT OFFICIAL
Videos: 3
Channel Views: 1,274
Total Upload Views: 38,758
Joined: 12 Oct 2008
Subscribers: 19

Dyfed Powys Police
Videos: 7
Channel Views: 1,640
Total Upload Views: 2,487
Joined: 12 Jan 2010
Subscribers: 10

Gwent Police
Videos: 29
Channel Views: 4,398
Total Upload Views: 18,405
Joined: 19 Feb 2008
Subscribers: 30

North Wales Police NOT OFFICIAL
7 videos
Channel Views: 3,660
Total Upload Views: 141,621
Joined: 16 Mar 2008
Subscribers: 38

South Wales Police
Videos: 5
Channel Views: 4,588
Total Upload Views: 32,985
Joined: 13 Feb 2008
Subscribers: 54

Sunday 13 March 2011

Facebook - update

Original map from last year (above)

It is 6 months since I assessed how many forces were making use of Facebook. In September 2010 there were 17 forces who didn't have a force page.  Now, there are 6 new forces to Facebook.  Of the last 11 forces without a facebook page, some are using Facebook for neighbourhoods, individual officers and even a police dog page.

New to Facebook
  • Lancashire
  • Greater Manchester
  • Cheshire
  • South Wales
  • Kent
  • City of London
Sussex Police promote their LGBT officer Pc Rachel Piggott
Dyfed Powys Police promote their police dog - Dafydd Paws
Merseyside Police promote Pc Lamb Banana

This leaves just 8 forces which are not getting involved in Facebook.

Monday 7 February 2011

Crime Mapping - A look at the beginning of the national system (Dec 2008)

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced on the 28th July 2008 that every neighbourhood in England and Wales would have access to the latest local crime information through new interactive crime maps.

The requirement set by the Home Secretary was that by the end of 2008, as efficiently and effectively as possible, forces had to produce a crime mapping system that would allow the public to:
  • see where and when crime has happened, down to street level for some offences
  • make comparisons with other areas
  • learn how crime is being tackled by neighbourhood policing teams.

Warwickshire Police, like many other forces, were keen to develop a system that worked for them but which could also work for other forces across England and Wales. This had the potential to deliver a better system at lesser cost than individual bespoke systems designed and purchased by some forces. 

Staff in Cambridgshire, West Mercia Police, Derbyshire and Leicestershire Police decided to work together to reduce the costs on each force and to the community in implementing a crime mapping solution. Initially this was picked up by members of the National Police Web Managers Group.

After initial research and discussion with many other forces that had not identified a way forward at that time, a presentation to 32 forces was arranged from four suppliers.

James Pickett (Cambridgeshire Police) and Ann Burr (West Mercia Police) came together with Sasha Taylor, (Warwickshire) and all played a significant role in developing various aspects of this work within their various specialisms and supported other colleagues from different forces in developing this solution. 

James provided the technical link to those within the group, Anne provided the experience in process management, while Sasha was responsible for co-coordinating this activity to bring it to its successful conclusion. 

Sasha also managed the implementation of the background maps required by this system for the Home Office on behalf of all forces.

The project
Following the presentation to forces a preferred supplier (RKH) was identified by many forces, however each force had to progress its own contractual arrangements with the supplier it chose.

During the last quarter of 2008, the ‘crime mapping group’ expanded to included 30+ forces and the people involved ranged from Web Managers (NPWMG), Project Managers, Performance Managers and Senior Officers and via a virtual network managed to overcome a number of hurdles in the implementation of the RKH crime mapping solution.

James Pickett and Sasha Taylor represented the interests of the ‘crime mapping group’ of forces using RKH at the Home Office Local Crime Information Stakeholder Assurance Group led by the DCC Neil Rhodes. Through this group they also managed to promote a number of standards that the ‘crime mapping group’ sought to achieve as the national standard.

Sasha Taylor also ensured that all forces were kept updated by the National Police Web Managers Group, which reports into APPRO and ACPO MediaAdvisory Group.

Resources and budget
The shared objective of all the forces as part of the ‘crime mapping group’ was to deliver crime mapping solutions for all forces at minimum cost, on a single platform with common criteria.

The initial RKH solution cost £2,750 for a licence and a £240 annual cost per force that wished to take this solution. The system proved simple to navigate with a balance between providing the information to the public and keeping the victims of crimes anonymous. As the NPWMG were leading on the implementation of the product they also created a good support network so that people with specific specialisms could help their colleagues in other forces.

This project was delivered within three months, from concept to go live to the public, and was taken up by 31 forces as their solution to Crime Mapping requirement.

Before the first Home Office Local Crime Information Stakeholder Assurance Group a questionnaire had been circulated to all forces asking them what position they were in to deliver Crime Mapping solution by the end of 2008 - the general feedback was that many would be struggling.

Due to collaboration enabled by the ‘crime mapping group’ this changed, with DCC Neil Rhodes being able to reassure that Government that nearly all (if not all) forces would achieve the deadline of December 2008.

The solution created was simple in its design and delivery, but more importantly it has shown that forces can work in partnership to tight deadlines, when allowed to manage the project themselves.

Whereas other crime mapping solutions have cost over £100,000, the solution proposed by the ‘crime mapping group' cost each force £2,350 with an ongoing annual cost of £240. The criteria for the suppliers to be invited to present was that their solution would be no more than £5,000 per force.

The ‘crime mapping group' solution became the basis for the first official national Crime Mapping solution that the NPIA adopted for the Home Office/ACPO.


Saturday 4 December 2010

Mobile barcodes

I am one of a growing number of people who own a smartphone and it has the ability to use the camera to scan a barcode which then links to a webpage.  I thought this is worth passing on as it could be a useful addition to use in printed media.  The website is and here is a barcode I generated for free.
a barcode for
Could be useful for things link witness appeals or wanted people.  The posters could be produced with the barcode to be scanned and the webpage gives the full details, photos and a form to report intelligence.  It allows posters to do what they do best - be eycatching and impactive and it allows the website to do what it does best - provide an unlimited quantity of supporting material on demand with resources that a poster cannot provide (video, audio, interactives, forms, downloads).

Sunday 31 October 2010

Halloween posters and pumpkin patrol cars

Well I think we made it through without getting the dreaded knock from witches, ghouls, ghosts and vampires this evening.  I spent some quality time trawling through all the UK police websites, picking out all the halloween advice - specifically the 'no trick or treat' posters. I did this because in the past, there have been suggestions that money could easily be saved if police forces collaborated on seasonal campaigns like Christmas, drink-driving, Halloween and fireworks.

26 forces host 'no trick or treating' posters with 10 offering posters for shop owners regarding flour and eggs with 9 offering 'we welcome trick or treaters' posters.

There is a definite north/south divide with most forces in the south offering some sort of halloween advice. Many northern forces don't offer similar advice with none of the Scottish forces offering anything at all.  If I get time, I'll add in a UK graphic to illustrate this.

So take a look at all the posters and see what you think.  My view is that they are all very similar and there need only be one poster designed for all forces to use. It would be possible to leave a space for a force crest and message at the bottom if that is important.  By pooling resources for posters, there would be additional budget available for supporting material which is not normally an option for many forces - video, audio and game resources could also be shared.  Listed below are some innovative ideas I came across which could also be scaled up for national use.

Surrey Police - Pumpkin patrol car
Competitions (Essex, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire, West Mercia)
Video (Essex, Thames Valley, Nottinghamshire)
Radio adverts (Surrey)
Schools resources (Northamptonshire)
Screensaver (Essex)
Pumpkin patrol car (Surrey)
Colouring sheets (Essex, West Mercia)
Halloween webchat (Leicestershire)

Apologies if I have missed out any innovative halloween initiatives - please comment with any additions and I'll update! There are perhaps many other ideas which would become practical opportunities at a national level - maybe TV adverts, high-profile launches, celebrity endorsements, cinema adverts, flash games, smartphone apps . . .

Sunday 17 October 2010

Web forms - make it easy

In my years as a web developer I've spent an awful lot time building web forms.

The biggest thing I've learnt from this is User Interaction - UI.

The problem I've found is size. Working within the public sector - Police, every department seems to want to know everything and wants to know it depth.

So they come to me for a web form. The quest for instant knowledge and information inevitably means the form will be massive, be five pages long and take 15 minutes to fill out. STOP!

Online forms that are oversized just won't get filled in. People want to do things quick and snappy. Not go through a myriad of 'open' text boxes. Incidentally open text boxes being one of the biggest problems.

A lot of online banking is quick and easy these days. This is because it's easy for the user to do. You log in, move some money around (maybe), look at a few other things and then you're done. You may say that's different because that's a service and not a form. The thing is though is the service is made up of lots of little forms and there's the key - lots of little ones.

Appreciated public sector organisations need to know a lot of detail but it's how they go about getting the user to give them that information.

From my experience I've come up with these tips:

Overall size

Consider the overall 'screen size' of the form. Ideally the form wants to be contained on one screen - as in you can see the whole of the form on the screen of a standard desktop monitor. (Obviously laptops, netbooks, mobiles etc will vary greatly but you have to have a common base somewhere.) If the form is getting bigger than this you might want to ask - do we really need to know all we're asking. This also leads onto questions to do with bureaucracy and forms - scope for another article.

If you do have to go down the more than one page route then I would recommend paging the form. Split the form up into sizeable chunks that break and continue at natural points. Also let the user know, at the start how many pages there are to go through. Then as they go through each page let them know their progress by way of a breadcrumb at the top of the form. Just an idea.


No text in the form other than the labelling of fields. Add somewhere else but not in the entrance. I don't want to have to read through everything then fill out the form. This information should be optional to read. Forms should be intuitive enough so the user knows what they're filling in just by looking at it, the title and the environment it's in. Explanations for fields for example should neatly sit under links within the form - not explanations actually in the form.

Open text boxes

Loose as many of these as possible. They are a nightmare for the user. This is one of the most off putting aspects of a large form. You're giving the user simply far too much to do.

Look at giving the user the answer you want in dropdown menus, radio buttons and check boxes. This is far smarter and dramatically reduces the size of the form.

There maybe some 'word smithing' needed here as to how to ask the question.

Error handling

A good form normally has some validation for what's being entered. This is normally for either/or security reasons and we want to for example know that the email address entered at least looks like an email address.

The user however shouldn't need to know any of this. If the user enters data into a field incorrectly they should be politely told they are wrong. Not given pop up alert boxes, error codes and statements of how wrong they are in bold red. Something quick, simple and not in your face should suffice.

That's about all I can think for now. I'm by far no means an authority and am open to comment and suggestion on these points.

Final note

There are many online forms that I've made that don't comply with what I've said above. Some of these are older forms and sometimes you can't help it. Sometimes you're simply told that's how it has to be. However I would always argue (now - didn't a while ago) that the information we're getting our public to give us is very precious. We don't want to make it difficult or put them off.