Nick Knowles joins outcry as Norfolk police told to close Twitter accounts

Nick Knowles arrives on day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham.

DIY SOS star Nick Knowles described the decision as 'a knee jerk reaction'. - Credit: PA

DIY SOS star Nick Knowles was among those who voiced their concerns after it emerged police officers in Norfolk have been asked to close their Twitter accounts.

As of Tuesday, officers will no longer use their individual accounts to Tweet – only official accounts for the force will be active.

Norfolk Police said it was reviewing its social media and "encouraging more contributors to existing accounts to create a wider range of interesting content."

Superintendent Lou Provart is one of the Norfolk officers with a higher profile – he has almost 6,000 followers.

He tweeted at 10.30pm on Monday to announce his account would close.

He said: "Folks it's time to exit stage right from Twitter as an official Norfolk Police account – all individual accounts are now closing.

"Really enjoyed the journey over the years on here. The public are the police – we are you, and you are us. Stronger together, by your side with pride."

Inspector Lou Provart.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Superintendent Lou Provart Tweeted on Monday evening to announce his individual account would close. - Credit: Archant

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Alongside his words was a video montage with various photos taken throughout his years of service.

His announcement prompted a number of negative reactions from people worried the move was making police officers less accessible to the public.

Author Mike Pannett described the decision as "absolute madness", while broadcaster Tom Gaynor added: "Police officers are accessible to the public whilst on the streets, they should be accessible online too.

"Policing needs a digital first, forward thinking approach to [social media], which is essentially the 21st century version of neighbourhood policing."

Replying to Mr Gaynor, TV star Nick Knowles said: "Sadly it’s a knee jerk reaction to misdemeanours, close all accounts because of misdeeds by a rare few.

"Corporate faceless interaction will be run by techs not cops Where’s the crime commissioner's trust in their officers? How can you see the person not the uniform if you ban the person talking?"

Norfolk county councillor for Thetford, Terry Jermy tweeted: "Don’t understand this – is there a statement somewhere explaining the decision? I find such accounts hugely informative and educational."

Deputy chief constable Simon Megicks said: "We're currently making changes to our social media accounts across Norfolk Police. These changes have seen officer and some department accounts closed down.

"Social media is a positive, powerful tool which brings vast benefits in reaching out and engaging with our communities. The informal nature means it can help to break down barriers, share information and appeals instantly. While the desire for information has never been greater, there is an important balance we must strike here.

"A review of our social media channels showed that a number of officer Twitter accounts weren’t being routinely used with six of the 12 accounts not posting content for at least a month. By comparison, the seven district accounts were much more active and also have a greater following of local people, with 72pc of followers living in the county compared to 48pc of followers for officer accounts. The purpose of police account on Twitter is to be engaging with the public so the inactivity was a real concern for us. We would always expect officers to be approachable and engaging while on patrol in their communities and this expectation equally applies to our online platforms.

"While the decision to consolidate our accounts is primarily based on local research, it also follows recommendations from the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) based on public feedback in the National Policing Digital Strategy.

"Norfolk is not unique in this approach and forces that have reduced accounts have seen more engagement, not less. We are encouraging more contributors to our existing accounts to create a wider range of interesting content, which will have a greater reach to the communities we serve. This is where we need to focus our efforts to help keep our communities safe and feeling safe.

"We know through work carried out nationally that there is no correlation between numbers of accounts and levels of engagement.

"Engagement is happening all the time through our conversations and interactions with the public.  Social media is just one part of it and this is about our wider aims of making sure we have a consistent approach of supporting local and force priorities while meeting the needs of all our communities offering effective two-way engagement."

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