By Charlotte Anketell
The Toronto Police Fugitive Squad and the United States Marshall Services joined forces for an intensive training session on the impact of social media in crime.
Warren Bulmer, Detective Constable with Toronto Police and full time Investigative instructor at the Toronto Police College said social media in police work is multi-faceted.
“There’s the avenue of public safety, public communication where members of the public expects police to communicate with them about day-to-day activities. Whether it be traffic related, reporting a crime, so we have a large number of overtly identifiable officers on social media to engage with the community in a more modern way,” said Bulmer.
“In traditional avenues of policing, we would hold press conferences, meetings, or community events and now we’re doing it on a much larger scale, using social media, putting out messaging, and being answerable to some of the questions the public may have. Many people go to social media for their daily news, so we have to respond to that.”
Bulmer told Humber news that another part of policing within social media is that the Internet is often involved in crime.
“That’s our job as investigators. We have to recognize that social media can be very helpful, it can also be very misleading and create more work than anticipated. We have to be able to follow leads we get on social media, whether they be false or misleading we still have to be in a position to eliminate them,” Bulmer said.
“That’s one of the challenges with social media, it’s easy to use and we expect that we’re going to receive a lot of information, but the job becomes very exonerating when deciphering what’s true and what’s pure heresy.”
Bulmer said as far as policing and social media goes, there is room for expansion – more importantly – improvement.
“We have to do business as usual knowing that the technology is an aid, and we have to use it and think of it as an aid. We can’t stop the best practices we have now. We can’t change how we do business just because social media exists, we have to include it in what we’re already doing,” Bulmer said.
“As a whole I think most law enforcement agencies are trying to play catchup. Some agencies are now incorporating some aspect of training, whether it be a specific stand alone course or just a session or two incorporated into courses we’ve already been trained,” he said.
“I think the training is improving but I think there’s more that can be done. What I would ask the public is to be patient. Law enforcement still hasn’t figured this out yet. We are certainly are going to make greater strides to try to do that.”
Detective Andrew Lawson of the Toronto Fugitive Squad said the annual event is all about the contacts.
Lawson said about eighty per cent of their work comes through the US and the relationship created are essential.
With Toronto being so diverse, Lawson said fugitives are prone to fleeing to our city.
“With us being the only international fugitive squad, we based it out of Toronto simply because we’re multicultural, all the different nationalities – people run here, blend right in and just completely disappear,” he said.
Lawson told Humber News that the content of the training has changed over the years, to accomodate our rapidly changing world.
“Conferences like this are all about relationships. We hold them once a year, three days of lectures and learning, investigative techniques, with the way of the web, we’re always updating the lessons,” Lawson said. “Five years ago we didn’t have any lectures on social media – now it’s probably forty per cent of what we do.”
The 15th annual training conference was at the Grand Hotel off lower Jarvis St. Formed in 1993, the Toronto Fugitive squad is celebrating 20 years in action. To date, the squad has arrested over 2,500 foreign fugitives.