CI Colin Paine, the tweeting policeman of West Oxfordshire

A version of this article appeared in Chipping Norton News, March 2012

Chipping Norton’s neighbourhood and community support police officers are opening an account on Twitter.

The initiative follows the example of West Oxfordshire’s area commander, chief inspector Colin Paine, who has been using the blogging service since February last year and has 630 followers as of 27 February (Twitter users who choose to receive his messages, although these can also be viewed online by anyone).

“I think it holds a lot of possibilities for the police,” CI Paine told Chippy News, with similar local accounts being set up by Thames Valley Police across the district. “Mostly it’s about becoming part of the conversation, rather than providing people with information.” He said that residents who find it difficult to find the time to attend meetings may prefer to receive short messages. Reports of crime should go through the force’s new 101 phone number, however.

CI Paine added that Twitter also helps in gathering information on potential problems before the police are notified: for example, he heard through the service about anti-social behaviour taking place among pub-leavers on a road in Witney, and was able to take action.

He uses his Twitter account to pass on the sort of messages you would expect to hear from a senior police officer: “Overall it was a very well behaved new years eve with very little in the way of disorder. Thank you to the citizens of West Oxon,” he tweeted on January 3, then on January 31 he asked for witnesses to a GBH incident in Chippy.

But he also uses the service to pass on his wit and wisdom, as the following examples show: