Anger as popular Scotland Yard helicopter Twitter account changes after rebranding

'We have gone from one of the best, most engaging police Twitter accounts to one of the blandest, transmit-only ones in one fell swoop'

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The Independent Tech

As a rebranding exercise it is unlikely to match the success of Blue Ribbon Sports’ transformation to Nike.

A popular Twitter account run by Scotland Yard detailing the work of their helicopter teams changed its name this month after they became part of the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

The “brilliantly run” @MPSinthesky, known for its aerial photography of the capital’s landmarks as much as its public interaction, is now @NPASLondon, but many of its 114,000 followers have been critical of the new “robotic and corporate” approach.

Former Met Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kirkham said he was “horrified” at the change which he claimed NPAS management is responsible for.

“They have apparently decreed that only the Control Room can post tweets and then only basic details of deployments unless they have prior managerial approval,” he told PoliceOracle.com. “All we get now is a tedious list of deployments, with no actual engagement at all. We have gone from one of the best, most engaging police Twitter accounts to one of the blandest, transmit-only ones in one fell swoop.”

Former Met officer Mike Pannett said the account had become a victim of its own success and the new “bland” approach would quickly lose the public’s attention.

“People want to see the human side of policing and so far this isn’t really happening,” he told the website. “Using social media is a skill – you need someone who has an understanding of police work because that’s what the public want to hear. Having the officers who are actually on the ground running the account has been so successful because it is insightful for the public.

“It is all about a bit of humour without being stupid. There’s a danger that senior officers, or whoever, has got a bit worried about the influence of the account as it has so many followers, and they are worried about losing control.

“So far the NPAS account looks like it is going a bit robotic. Undoubtedly there is a place for corporate accounts, but the reason this is popular is because it showed the human side of things and was more personable.”

The Met said the same people running the old account were in charge of the new one. One of the criticisms is the feed has stopped showing pictures of the helicopters in action instead writing simply what area they are in and what search they are assisting with.

Chief Superintendent Ian Whitehouse, who runs the service, said the move to NPAS was “excellent news for the communities of London”.

He said: “The whole idea of NPAS is that when air support is required the controllers on the ground make use of the nearest available aircraft. So before, when forces had their own aircraft, if that one was unavailable for whatever reason there was no back up. Now as part of NPAS, if a helicopter is unavailable because it is on another task or grounded for maintenance then there are other aircraft officers on the ground can call on for support.”

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