Police visibility on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic

Dr LIAM Ralph1

1Northumbria Univeristy, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kindom

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on both crime and the way that policing is carried out. This paper delves further into these changes and considers the function of social media for police services during the pandemic. In doing this, the opportunities and challenges for police services are presented. This research is based on a total of 28 semi-structured interviews conducted with a mix of police officers, PCSOs, and civilian staff across four police services in England and Wales. These interviews were conducted between August 2020 and January 2021. The research findings show that social media platforms have in some respects afforded police services the opportunity to engage with new audiences during the pandemic. Yet, police participants in our study also reported difficulties with talking about Covid-19 related content on social media and maintaining positive relationships with the communities that they serve. Despite the growth in social media in recent times, police participants also revealed that they have had to find new and innovative ways to engage with citizens who are not on social media. The implications of these themes are considered in relation to future police practices on social media.


Liam Ralph is a Criminology lecturer at Northumbria University and also worked recently as a Research Fellow on an ESRC funded Visible Policing project with Professor Mike Rowe (Northumbria University), Professor Andrew Millie (Edge Hill University), and Dr Matt Jones (The Open University). He recently completed his PhD that captured best practice in police use of social media. For this, Liam worked closely with Police Scotland. At the same time as doing his PhD, Liam undertook an internship with The Scottish Government and examined Scottish Crime and Justice Survey data on public confidence in the police and satisfaction during encounters.


Dec 08 2021