On Thursday 14<sup>th</sup> October, the Greater Manchester Police decided to set up three Twitter streams to tweet all of their actions and responses to the public over a full 24 hour period. The purpose of which, according to GMP, was to give the general public an idea of the work load a typical police constabulary has to deal with on a daily basis. However, were their actions completely irresponsible to the regions they were supposed to be serving and protecting?
On Thursday 14th October, the Greater Manchester Police decided to set up three Twitter streams to tweet all of their actions and responses to the public over a full 24 hour period. The purpose of which, according to GMP, was to give the general public an idea of the work load a typical police constabulary has to deal with on a daily basis. However, were their actions completely irresponsible to the regions they were supposed to be serving and protecting?
In addition to informing the general public, GMP Chief Constable Peter Fahy said the Twitter feeds would also give politicians a sense of the kind of incidents "not recognised in league tables and measurements" and help justify their fury against cuts in police forces throughout the country. I followed one of their Twitter accounts from around 9am through to close of play late into the early hours of Friday morning (I did start out following all three, but my Twitter account soon became spammed with constant tweeting!). Their tweets were astonishingly frequent, with messages being posted once every 10 seconds on average across all 3 accounts. On reflection of the size of the police force in question and the high crime areas they cover, this maybe is not such a surprise. The sheer number of tweets was so huge, that shortly after 11am, they were forced to create a fourth stream! The streams are accessible at @gmp24_1, @gmp24_2, @gmp24_3 and @gmp24_4. Tweets included some potentially serious incidents including local disturbances, burglaries, assaults and road traffic accidents. However it wasn’t long until bizarre cases were cropping up, which included; a woman reporting someone for uploading a video of her to a YouTube account, a man reported for shouting ‘you’re gorgeous’ to a woman, and a young man reported for dangling a baby off a bridge…which turned out to be a dog that he was carrying as it was afraid of bridges. However my favourite has to have been a confused man that rang in as he couldn’t figure out how to turn on his TV. What this exercise helped show was both the extent of activities that the police force has to deal with on a daily basis and the sheer stupidity of some of the calls. But, I personally have some hang-ups on this particular use of social media. I am usually an advocate for the sensible use of social media where ever possible, however did the GMP in this instance consider all aspects and consequences of its activity? The most glaring question would be; if they are complaining over the government reducing ‘bobbies on the beat’, how did they manage to find 3 members (later, 4 members) of staff to sit on computers and continually update Twitter streams for 24 hours? Surely this resource of man power could have been much better utilised in the society it is meant to be protecting. Secondly, this type of interaction is asking for jokers to phone in with daft made up stories and fictitious names in order to get their ‘comedy crime’ tweeted. Is this socially responsible? On the plus side, the total number of followers gained over the 3 Twitter accounts in the 24 hour period was in excess of 30,000; bearing in mind that the official Greater Manchester Police account at @gmpolice only had 6,000 followers before this project was undertaken, is quite a remarkable feat. This enabled the GMP to interact with an audience that was not open to them previously. The activity also generated a huge number of ‘column inches’ equally across traditional media and in the digital world. This opened up a whole new awareness, both politically and within the general public, of today’s policing issues, the matter of budget cuts and the capacity within the force to deal with daily issues. While the GMP appeared to achieve their goals, I believe that the campaign had huge social flaws that were an irresponsible oversight of whoever was the brains behind the idea. Social flaws are not what you need in a social media campaign!