Police public relations in the age of social media

PhD Thesis

McIntee, V. 2016. Police public relations in the age of social media. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University
AuthorsMcIntee, V.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

This research examines the concept of public relations in the English police; what it is, how it has changed and the problems police forces now face with regard to communications. The last two decades has seen a transformation within police public relations as it has become increasingly standardised, corporatized, professionalised and more open, playing a key part in the police transparency agenda. Police officers have been replaced by civilian experts as the departments have grown in size which has led to changes in the structure, strategy and ideology as these departments have adapted to the new challenges posed by social media, severely restricted budgets, apparent loss of public confidence and public cynicism. Since 2009 England’s police forces have become increasingly active online. There is very little research, however, into how and why social media is being used by the police, how it fits into the broader communication strategies, and how this is changing traditional police public relations.
During this study a national comparison of police forces was undertaken to investigate these issues. What emerged was a picture of dynamic tension between change and continuity within police communications around identity, ideology, form and function. Once an understaffed, ancillary function, affiliated to but not part of ‘real police work’, most police public relations departments are now considered an “operationally essential” part of modern policing in their force. Social media has enabled police forces to communicate directly to and with large segments of the populous for the first time. This research has also identified strong evidence of the emergence of a new model, that of ‘direct and digital’ within police communications. This new approach appears to be moving police communications from primarily a reactive service to a proactive dialogical one that is increasingly looking to engage with audiences directly online rather than through conventional methods.

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Publication process dates
Deposited13 Feb 2017
Output statusUnpublished
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