Response to Online #ValenCrimes Campaign Concerns
The Calgary Police Service has taken a leadership role as it relates to using social media to connect and engage with our community, as well as to enhance our response to issues around crime and safety.
Social media platforms provide opportunities for CPS to connect with new audiences, to share and receive information, and to showcase the human side of the police profession and the services we provide.
Holidays and special occasions are frequently acknowledged as another means of connecting and celebrating with those we serve.
CPS regularly posts information regarding offenders with outstanding warrants. The Valentines campaign follows the same process and format however, the connection with Valentine’s Day and the use of humour tends to generate a significantly higher response and tips than our regular warrant posts. 2020 was the second year we profiled prolific offenders with outstanding warrants using a Valentine’s Day theme. In 2019, eight individuals were profiled on CPS social media accounts resulting in five of the eight offenders being located and arrested.
As anticipated, this year’s initiative resulted in significant engagement in terms of viewing, sharing, and comments. Generally speaking, the public response across all platforms was positive. We did note some variability between platforms. In particular, we received some thoughtful comments and dialogue on Twitter expressing concern that the ValenCrimes posts lacked sensitivity and may be stigmatizing for the individuals profiled. In light of the significant responses, both positive and negative, received over the course of the Family Day long weekend, we completed a review of the initiative.
Driving police innovation and engagement in the social media space is far from an exact science. We applaud and encourage the initiative and creativity of our employees as they have done and continue to do excellent work to build positive connections with our community. Though we recognize that a good portion of the public supported the ValenCrimes initiative, we were persuaded by the thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary of the segment who expressed concern.
It is important for us to be regarded as a police service that cares about its citizens – all of them – and can be trusted even by those facing difficult situations and/or are involved with the criminal justice system. We want to be acting corporately in a manner that aligns with our values of compassion, respect, and fairness. Although our intention was simply to use humour and the holiday to generate tips regarding the location of various individuals, we appreciate how the messaging could be received as lacking in sensitivity and respect.
As a result, the ValenCrimes initiative will not continue in 2021. The 2020 posts/profiles have been removed from our social media accounts. We will of course, continue to use our regular warrant process to accomplish the objective.
Once again, we would like to thank the public for their trust and confidence in the CPS. We appreciate the feedback you have provided regarding the 2020 ValenCrimes initiative and offer apologies to those who may have been offended. We encourage you to continue to follow and engage us – we do not intend to stop reaching out and innovating on social media.
Chief Constable Mark Neufeld
Calgary Police Service