Friday, September 23, 2011

Tweet the Chief = Ignore the Journalist

I was interviewed on News1130 for my evaluation of the Vancouver Police Department's Tweet the Chief interactive, social media event on Sept. 22.

My grade? A "charitable B-minus."

It was the first time that VPD Chief Jim Chu took questions via Twitter and Facebook and offered answers in a Livestream webcast. I encourage the VPD to do a Tweet the Chief event every month. There should also be Tweet the Chief sessions in other languages and there should also be a regular Tweet the Chief event solely for the media.

I support any effort by politicians and public officials to face the public, because politicians and public officials are employed by the public. They are accountable to the public. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Mayor Gregor Robertson's only foray into a social media event (beyond a traditional radio call-in show) was actually a telephone town hall conference for Vision Vancouver members only.

There were technical difficulties. The session started late. There was also no explanation for who the people were in the "studio" audience at the VPD headquarters' media theatre or whether their questions were pre-screened and approved by the VPD.

Const. Jana McGuinness was the moderator. She has experience handling media scrums, but being a host of a live webcast was new to her. It was obvious that the strategy was also to put a kinder, gentler face on the police chief and the force. Chu talked about a favorite police movie and mentioned his love of hockey. He was asked why VPD uniforms are black and joked that it was the only color that would hide stains from spilled coffee and donut crumbs.

I offer all the above comments, despite the fact that all of my questions via Twitter and Facebook were ignored. There were fewer than 200 viewers of the Livestream, so it's not as if the quantity of questions was overwhelming. I think my questions were ones that the VPD didn't want to address. Or McGuinness didn't want to put her boss on the spot.

I have copied below verbatim the questions I posed during Tweet the Chief. I challenge Chu -- not the media relations department, but the Chief himself -- to respond. Or, better yet, sit down with me for a one-on-one interview, to answer all the questions.

I'll buy the coffee and donuts. I promise not to spill.


Dear Chief: please comment on sentence of ex-Const. Hodson. What is VPD doing to prevent corruption in force? @VancouverPD #TweetTheChief

Dear Chief: why were cars not towed away from post office parking lot before Game 7? @VancouverPD #TweetTheChief #riot2011

Q: Who are the people in @VancouverPD #Tweetthechief "studio audience" and were their questions vetted by VPD?

Dear Chief Chu, After #riot2011, why should citizens have faith in VPD to keep safe/secure people and property? @VancouverPD #Tweetthechief

Dear Chief: Why did no one from VPD join city manager Ballem's fan zone conference call on morning of 6/15? #TweetheChief @VancouverPD

Dear Chief: Please give 3 reasons why you and Dep. Le Pard should remain in office after #riot2011. @VancouverPD #TweettheChief

My @VancouverPD #TweetTheChief stats: 1 hour watched, 6 Twitter questions asked, 3 Facebook questions asked. Answers? 0. #fail


Bob Mackin
Dear Chief Chu, After the VPD mis-handled the riot response, why should citizens have faith in the ability of VPD to keep safe and secure a scheduled public gathering or assist in a natural disaster?

Bob Mackin
Dear Chief Chu, high-ranking RCMP E Division officers Craig Callens and Norm Lipinski were embedded with the VPD command on June 15. FOI documents show Craig Callens reported to the Deputy Solicitor General that there were 700 police officers from all sources deployed for the riot. Can you explain the disparity between Callens's total of 700 and the 928 you have in the VPD internal review?

Bob Mackin
Dear Chief Chu: VPD Dep. Steve Sweeney appealed Feb. 22, 2010 to RCMP V2010 ISU for extra help to prevent an Olympic hockey riot. Crowds were larger than expected. There was widespread public drunkenness and fighting. A briefing note written by the RCMP says VPD claimed conditions were reminiscent of June 14, 1994. During the 2011 Stanley Cup, similar "pre-riotous" conditions were observed by LCLB, especially on the night of Game 5. Why did VPD not invoke its authority and shut down the fan zone before Game 7? Was there resistance from the Mayor and/or City Manager?

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