A new frontier -Legitimacy, politics, social media….

28 Apr

When I was lead for public order policing on Sussex Police Authority I was lucky to get to a command course by Dr Clifford Stott on crowd psychology and protest policing. The idea at its most basic was that crowds only came into conflict with police when they considered that they were being stopped from doing something legitimate. The approach reduces conflict and reinforces police legitimacy to act by a process of constant dialogue.

I believe that politicians can reflect on this idea when engaging in and using social media. Their decision making requires a sense of mandate (or democratic legitimacy) ….falling participation in elections most notably the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections at an all time low leaves a legitimacy issue. How can we think about this learning from the Stott model is my first question? I believe, that many PCCs are beginning to think about this and are considering how to make themselves more transparent, more accessible and to check their policies with the community on a rolling basis. The wise ones definitely are!

My second question is around a developing sense of what is legitimate crowd behaviour on social media especially in relation to social media. Three cases we could use for background for our thinking are Martha’s lunches and her NeverSeconds blog, Cllr Jason Kitcat’s standards experience and the experience of people who consider themselves to be citizen journalists.

In each of these cases the attempt to ‘control’ citizen reporting failed and were seen to be undemocratic. For me, the key lesson is, presumption of openness unless breaches confidentiality rules. All involved in democracy, politicians, chief executives and chief constables and democratic services need to assume the instant real time sharing of process and debate. This will look messier but it will be more engaging. No longer can engagement be bottled into packages delivered by community development officers and housing workers. It will not be a timescales you decide. If you resist, you will be accused of conspiracy by the social media crowd.

Politicians who block critics who don’t breach what the online community believe to be legitimate questions and debate will lose voters in my opinion. The crowd will judge this behaviour. I know @curiousc will comment with useful stuff on crowd behaviour online.

There you go guys, a provocation….what are your thoughts? Fancy a cup of tea to discuss?


One Response to “A new frontier -Legitimacy, politics, social media….”


  1. Hacking local democracy | huxley06 - May 1, 2013

    […] policing communities. Trust and respect are vital for both police and politics to create a sense of legitimacy for decisions and actions taken. Digital can provide a transparency, it can give people the opportunity to directly question […]

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