Policing Social Media…no, really

Une église parisienne © Natalia Martinez

This BBC article on a new stunt pulled by UK police. And no, I don’t mean stunt a la Ecuador, thankfully. Rather, Manchester police tweeted every call/complaint they got for 24-hours in response to a government announcement of spending cuts that could prompt police departments to reduce as much as 25% of their budget. The full list of calls is here.

Why I do I think this is brilliant? It is unconventional, surprising, far-reaching, attention grabbing, and easy [pretty high return on (time) investment going on here]. It reached a lot of people and caught plenty of attention. But more importantly, it was a great example of organizational transparency and myth-debunking. Most citizens have no idea the volume or nature of the calls their police forces actually deal with, and this was a great way of killing multiple birdies with a cyber (yet still figurative) stone: citizens righted their perceptions and the police department looked good doing it! As much as I’m not a Twitter convert and keeping in mind that it has been getting some flack after the Gladwell piece in “The New Yorker” and reports that contradict the supposed impact of social media tools in situations like the Iranian student protests last year, this here seems to me a use of social media tools at their finest. If you haven’t read the Gladwell piece, I recommend it just to get your internal dialogue going. Also, here’s a Slate piece about the conservative women’s movement using Twitter.

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