How #gmp24 happened

The challenge was to find a way to show people the wide range of issues the police are called to deal with.  There were many possibilities – for example, to release statistics and information about crime and incidents over a 24 hour period, or to allow a TV crew (if they wanted to) to spend 24 hours with a police team. But none of them seemed to hit the mark.

In a world where the Big Society is a hot topic, hyperlocal sites are growing and open data is on the minds of all public bodies there needed to be another answer. The key had to be in social media, and it was – in Twitter.

I am a recent convert to Twitter only joining about three months ago. I am now well and truly bitten by the Twitter bug and can see the opportunities it provides. As an organisation as well we have recognised what it can bring to communication.  There could be no other choice in how to show real-time the incidents that people called about. How else could you really provide a short overview of each of those 999 and switchboard calls that are faced? How could you do it in a way that had a transparency and accountability?

My bosses are thankfully a forward thinking bunch that didn’t have to think twice when given Twitter as the solution. They had a few weeks earlier agreed the social media strategy and had supported neighbourhood officers being given Blackberries so they could use Twitter to make contact with people.  Despite the inevitable concerns about confidentiality, privacy and data protection they were prepared to support the plan and take a leap of faith.

It all seemed relatively straightforward, work with colleagues who understand the computer system that logs the calls received and then turn that information into less than 140 characters. But there was the bizarre problem of Twitter jail and finding the best possible solution to allow what was anticipated to be more than 2,500 tweets in 24 hours. There had to be a way to ensure that we didn’t get barred from tweeting. The simple solution was to have four accounts that rotated as they were suspended.

Some may claim that this was a PR stunt. I would however say it is just providing information to the public. We already provide details of crime statistics on a regular basis, have crime maps and produce annual reports detailing incidents. How then is using Twitter for a 24-hour period anything more than part of this open approach?

As the finishing touches were put together and the team were put in place, we knew it was going to be interesting and attract some attention. There would be no hiding place. It was like allowing many thousands of people to sit in and see what was happening in the police cars, in the call centres and in the cells.  What we didn’t expect was that it would be a global trending topic for hours after the 24 hours finished.  It gave people an insight into something that people don’t usually get a chance to see and they loved it. There are probably sociological and psychological reasons why people wanted to follow it, or it could just be that it was genuinely an interesting thing to see the serious calls about heart-rending crimes next to the bizarre calls that clog up the phone lines.

The 24 hours was interesting and a useful piece of work that got people talking about the serious issue of what people want from their police. However, it is what happens from here that is the most critical issue for all police and public sector agencies. What more can we do to provide people with that opportunity to see things live? How can we really introduce open data? And are we able to make a move from traditional communication to embrace the opportunities of social media?

That is a challenge that we will take up. We are refocusing our work to invest in the future, one where the big society and open data are the issues. #gmp24 may be at an end, but it leaves a legacy. It has set the benchmark for the future, and to use a cliché – watch this space.

Top trending words in #gmp24

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16 Responses to How #gmp24 happened

  1. Loulouk says:

    Regarding peoples motivations; my stream was full of people stunned at the ridiculousness of the calls, combined with frustration that none of the reports which came through in the first few hours would be considered a ‘real’ crime by them themselves. It isn’t sympathy, though, that it seems to me is the greatest thing which has come out of this, looking from the outside in, thought there is sympathy there for the patience your Officers must have.
    It’s the humanity of a service which is provided to us all, which some of us have never interacted with, but which was demonstrated quite clearly, the humanity of both the Officers dealing with the problems, but also the humanity of the calls which came through.
    Cynics might call it a PR stunt. Others of us know that you were the first of what will be a long line of services using Twitter to be transparent and garner nothing but understanding.

    • Polleetickle says:

      well (LouLouk) PR matters aside – engaging resources on social media does what for raising Policing time upwards from 16%? And, reducing real, proper, true life-changing crime?

  2. Nigel Barlow says:

    Good and really well considered piece Amanda.
    If nothing else,the exercise shows that Twitter is,at least for the moment the preferred modem of communication for many public bodies.
    however a couple of issues concern me:

    Firstly the timing of the event.There was a staged question at the previous day’s council meeting to Manchester executive about police resources,the coincidence to me was too great along with this week’s spending review announcements
    There is talk of up to 3100 back room jobs being lost at GMP so what better way to convince the public that these should be protected

    Secondly the medium itself.like you I am a great fan of Twitter.However I recognise it’s limitations in that it is predominently used by the White middle clssses.just look at the issues that generally get aired through it(the Jan Moir incident and cuts to the film council being classic examples)
    who can now see why the police used this medium to publicise their workload in these times of fiscal pressures
    Don’t get me wrong.As a journalist And citizen of Manchester I found it a fascinating exercise but it was to a very limited audience with the majority getting the headlines only through the traditional media
    It will be very interesting in the coming weeks to see how GMP use this data

    • amandacomms1 says:

      I understand why people may question the timing and use of Twitter. The reasons I have outlined in my blog are accurate. Much was led by the availability of individuals to make it happen. The use of Twitter – well that really was just because it provided the best way of achieving what we wanted to. You are quite right it is what we do in the coming weeks and months that will be important.

      • Adam says:

        It was an excellent idea which hopefully will have worked for you on every level possible. I disagree with the idea that Twitter is exclusively white and middle class – the reaction to the Jan Moir story proves this – but even if it was, it wouldn’t change the main benefit for GMP which was the media coverage elsewhere. Through regional TV and the MEN, GMP was able to get an important message over to many more people than just those on Twitter. The liveblog on the MEN website is an example of the role the media can play in taking raw information and presenting it in a way which appeals to its users.The traditional media is still the main way people consume news and this excerise is a brilliant example of plugging social media into that, getting to a very wide audience as a result.

        And so what if the timing helps to prove just what the police have to deal with at a time of cuts? It’s important people have all the facts as possible available to understand what these cuts will mean and the idea that the savings can be achieved without damaging front line services is one which needs to be challenged.

  3. great piece of work Amanda – public services need to be transparent so that people can understand where the money is going and the crazy pressures front line workers face.

    To work effectively the system urgently needs some sunlight shining into it. The remarkable transparency your exercise provided adds evdience to the need for a national non-emergency number to ensure that specialised police crime fighting resources are devoted to crime and that someone else deals with social work.

    Over the years I’ve taken part in dozens of community police meetings, safer neighbourhood panels and have worked closely with local police to tackle crime in my tricky neighbourhood. http://www.kingscrossenvironment.com/public_disorder/

    So i would urge you not to stop here – keep the transparency going wherever the police are active in the CJS so that we can see what happens as you send police witnesses to court, work with the CPS and probation. And in the community – make sure there is a real time local information feed for citizens direct so that they can see for themse selves what you are doing in their neighbourhood and that can also be picked up by media such as hyperlocal websites.

  4. Polleetickle says:

    This #gmp24 PR campaign declared several things.

    1/ the utter incompetence of prioritising calls into categories – many of which should have been passed on to different authorities.

    2/ the insight into Blackberries being required for this new communications channel – have any solution providers declared an interest in these?

    para1: “The challenge was to find a way to show people the wide range of issues the police are called to deal with”.
    3/ = PR campaign to obfuscate the forthcoming data about how little police manpower is actually spent Policing – 16% of time.

    para3: accountability?
    4/ Completely undone in my view. I sympathise with the work the Police do overall but; they’ve left me to fend for myself too many times. They’ve attempted to prosecute me for stuff I hadn’t done. They humiliated me when I stepped in to stop shoplifting. I’ve known several warrant card carrying employees abuse drink driving, parking regulations and gain access to priveledged area’s.

    para4: neighbourhood officers being given Blackberries so they could use Twitter to make contact with people
    5.1/ Is the recently implemented police communications system ten years too late then?

    5.2/ Is this about the justification of Blackberries for officers?

    5.3/ Government departments and general public sectors continue to lose handsets without recourse. How is this going to be avoided?

    6/ Policing in real terms is down to 16%. Why is this; the extrordinary levels of sick leave, the pensions, payouts, re-recruitment of sacked officers, now more time spent on social media, meant to be acceptable?

    7/ Police spend 30% of time on pointless red tape.

    Just to provide clarity – I find any social media communication by the Police completely disagreeable until policing in real terms is tripled from 16%.

  5. Really interesting piece, Amanda. I wanted to know if anyone had started to use the tweets to create a piece of journalism/analysis around the day? All I saw was a graph on the MEN’s site (useful, but not thrilling). The tweets themselves represent a rich record of what happened, but twitter (on its own) isn’t necessarily a great way of digesting the information. Of course, that isn’t a reason for not doing it – only a reason to see how else the tweets generated can be used.

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