Each time there is a major government announcement about “Cyberbullying” I must admit, I get a little ‘worked up’. For ten years now, a number of people have been advocating for a relationships & technology strategy to improve and save lives using social media tools. I must admit, that I am one of those people, all along in my role as a police officer. We have heard every excuse why it won’t work, from legal liability reasons to professionals not wanting to have any part of being friends with ‘clients’ or students.
The reality is that real people who are real professionals are saving and improving lives using social media tools, and have been for some time. There is a tremendous need for professional and timely intervention to save and improve lives. Unofficial reports from people who help others online during times of crisis, simply because they care, many who have experienced similar issues themselves, make me believe there are close to 500 good samaritans worldwide already doing the daily grind of this necessary work. One of those persons is Sandra from Vancouver. Another is Stephanie from Toronto. One common thing that both Sandra and Stephanie say to me is that there is a tremendous need for social services from professionals in the cyber world on a 24/7 basis, available both locally and globally. Another tremendous need is when things have gone terribly wrong, and in order to save a life, trained and skilled law enforcement personnel in both mental health issues and online investigations are needed to safely locate the person in crisis, and bring them to safety. I have personally been this law enforcement person for cases around the world on several occasions, and nurse Anne Marie Batten has been the social services component. The volume is often overwhelming, and the crisis often comes when my family is sitting down to a nice meal or some quiet family time at home, or in the middle of the night when that precious good night’s sleep is sought! The urgency for the need for human resources on this issue is yesterday’s news! Anne Marie and I have tired of being onlookers to this crisis and Anne Marie is taking the lead to fill the gaps. Then there is the issue of whether the cry for help online is legitimate or a hoax. I can’t count the number of times that my time has been wasted on a false alarm, or even a hoax. It is only with experience that you are able to detect those in need from those who are not, and online posts that are completely a hoax.
Today (Wednesday November 20, 2013) is one of those days I am ‘wound up’ over this, as there was a Canadian federal government announcement about ‘cyberbullying’ that triggered media to start calling Toronto Police Corporate Communications office, where I now work as the Toronto Police Service Social Media Officer.
Sun News Network had me as a guest on their show in anticipation of the announcement. You can watch what I said here by clicking on this hyperlink.
Any law that makes cyberbullying illegal is a good thing, however when the debate is not focused on a relationships and technology strategy, I start to get worried that the close to 10years of advocacy for this has all been in vain. It is difficult for to imagine that with all the digital bread crumbs left online about the need for human resources and funding to save and improve lives using social media tools and a strategy of relationships and technology is not being heard by the highest levels of decision makers in our country. Not trying to be negative here, or pass judgement. Many people are trying their best, and all efforts are welcome. What it will come down to, however is not “Big Brother” tactics by police, but more a collaboration in the sense of the “Big Brothers and Big Sisters” programs to help mentor both youth people and adults through their often terrible and deeply private hurt and embarassment that cyber bulling causes. We are talking everyone from students to teachers to even police officers who have been victimized.
A good thing happened this afternoon when Anne Marie and I got together to take some pictures for an RCMP Gazette article that we have been asked to write about Real Time Crisis. I got a ‘just by chance’ opportunity for Anne Marie to shake the hand of a man I admire for his leadership on the cyberbulling issue, my ultimate boss, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. We took a photo on Anne Marie’s “Real Time Crisis Phone” and that is the photo you see here! Here’s hoping for great things to come! If anyone can lead the strategy of relationships and technology needed to save and improve lives, it is my Chief. After all, it was Chief Blair who started the School Resource Officer program in Toronto, and, in my eyes, has championed the balance needed between community building and police investigations that our community, both locally and globally has come to expect.
I am writing this blog to showcase the work of 2 professionals who have used social media tools and relationships and technology to save and improve the lives of countless people, Toronto Street Nurse Anne Marie Batten and Toronto School Safety Hall Monitor Dave Bradley.
Between the two of them, I can honestly say that since I have known them, they have prevented at minimum 30 suicides by using social media tools. They both have saved many 911 calls for service, and both have sacrificed a lot personally and professionally to accomplish their humble goals — simply of making people’s lives better by being there for them listening in their time of need, whether it be by text, Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Ask.fm, Kik or even by the old fashioned bullying way.. in person or on the phone. These two people deserve the Order of Canada in my humble opinion.
As earlier stated, Anne Marie has now got tired of sitting on the sidelines, and has incorporated a not for profit company called Real Time Crisis Intervention. She has a Board of Directors – 3 very key people – Lauri Stevens of Laws Communications in Boston, Scott Abrams of Crime Stoppers USA in Wisconsisn, and Jesse Miller of Mediated Reality in Vancouver. I have been acting as a volunteer advisor to her newly formed not for profit corporation. Special thanks to lawyers at BLG Eric Roher and Victoria Prince for meticulously helping out with the legalities… simply because the work that is ongoing now with #RealTimeCrisis is the right thing to do.
Several organizations like the Probation Officers Association of Ontario and Victim Services Toronto are jumping on board in support of the goals and objectives of this organization.
I am writing this blog to raise awareness about this organization and give it my 100% support. For me, as a cop, this is “MCIT online” (Mobile Crisis Intervention Team).. the same as cops and nurses working together for mental health related calls on the streets. The result of embracing this concept on a formal basis with proper structure, staff and funding, will effectively save and improve lives both locally and globally.
Anne Marie needs your help. She needs funding, staff for 24/7 coverage. The Gatehouse Child Abuse and Sex Assault Investigation Site has offered her a home for when she gets up and running. If you know anyone who can assist, please share this document with them.
I am adding some resource documents below. Thank you!
For starters… click on this link for a recent presentation to social services by Anne Marie, myself and the Toronto Police Service Corporate Communications Issues Manager Meaghan Gray (who has been a big supporter of Real Time Crisis Intervention start up).
Case studies of lives improved and saved using Real Time Crisis Intervention strategy:
Presentation slides from #SMILECON in Omaha, Nebraska in 2013
Watch Sun Media Interview of Constable Scott Mills