Police visibility through the use of visual tools on social media

Dr Matthew Jones1

1The Open University, Uk

This paper contributes to the growing evidence base related to police use of social media as a contemporary tool of community engagement, by exploring specifically police use of visual tools and their utility on social media platforms as part of the contemporary policing toolkit. Part of a wider project on police visibility, the research draws upon interviews with 28 police officers and staff from police organisations in England, all of which engage with official police social media platforms as part of their professional practice. The research showcases how the use of photographs, videos, GIFS, emojis and police symbols are used strategically by officers and staff to facilitate community engagement, reassure the public, challenge police stereotypes and provide an insight into police work that is not commonly presented to the public. The challenges of utilising visual tools in a policing context are discussed alongside the implications of creating a visual presence online for police organisations internationally.


Dr Jones is based at the Centre for Policing Research and Learning at The Open University, UK. The university has partnerships with twenty-five of the forth-three police services in the UK, collaborating on research, knowledge exchange and education initiatives. Matthew is an interdisciplinary social scientist and led on the social media theme of the ESRC funded police visibility project.


Dec 08 2021