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UK Police Force Posts All Its Calls On Twitter

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the 140-crimes dept.

Crime 66

Stoobalou writes "One of the largest police forces in the UK is posting every incident reported to it today on Twitter. Greater Manchester Police began its 24-hour experiment this morning at 05:00 BST, tweeting all incident reports in the hope of highlighting the complexity of modern policing. 'Policing is often seen in very simple terms, with cops chasing robbers and locking them up,' Chief Constable Peter Fahy said in a statement. 'However the reality is that this accounts for only part of the work they have to deal with.'"

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66 comments

First problem report of the day (4, Funny)

NYMeatball (1635689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33892964)

"Local authority's twitter account has been hacked"

Re:First problem report of the day (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893240)

That would explain all the UFO sightings ... and why some pub south of Manchester has been reportedly eaten by a creature resembling Margaret Thatcher. An ABP has been issued for Godzilla in drag.

Re:First problem report of the day (0, Troll)

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Re:First problem report of the day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33896288)

lol

Sounds like (3, Funny)

reitton (1443679) | more than 3 years ago | (#33892998)

A great day for a HEIST, just be out of there within 2 minutes of them twittering the call.

Re:Sounds like (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893338)

Report a tasty false alarm or two across town (crime or celeb related), wait for your distraction to hit the tweetisphere and go hit your target while they deal with the crazy crowd control at your false alarm.

So (3, Insightful)

frozentier (1542099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893004)

In showing how complex and difficult their daily job is, they decided to add the burden of posting every call on Twitter. That makes sense.

Re:So (4, Insightful)

elvum (9344) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893156)

To be fair, this is two staff from the PR department doing the tweeting, not front-line police officers. Given the publicity they've received in return for those two person-days of effort, it seems like pretty good value to me.

Re:So (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894344)

Besides, all it would take is an interface between the 999 call-recording software and the Twitter API. I HOPE someone isn't sat there copying them from one system and submitting them in another.

Re:So (4, Insightful)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894968)

I would hope that they are.

The 999 system data would not be sufficiently anonymized and be too long for twitter's character limit. I would also prefer to know there's at least some separation between the E999 networks, and the general internet.

Rather than risking an automated filter, and since this is a single-day thing, it makes more sense to bruteforce it. If it was going to be a permanent fixture then I could see the value in going whole-hog and automating it.

Re:So (1)

molo (94384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33895014)

Why does a police force need a PR department?

-molo

Re:So (2, Informative)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33895408)

I'd guess to try and improve their public profile (you might find this surprising, but in some parts of society the police are not fondly viewed) and probably to attract funding from the private sector.

Re:So (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33896648)

To answer questions from the press. PR isn't just sitting around thinking of ways to spin everything in a positive light. The police have a responsibility to accurately report to the public the crime that is going on in the community.

Re:So (3, Insightful)

Cederic (9623) | more than 3 years ago | (#33899042)

The UK government are planning to significantly reduce public spending. The police receive criticism for being very expensive even though there's a lot of crime.

Posting routine activities on Twitter demonstrates the range of tasks the police have to do, which makes it easier to justify the cost of policing, increases public understanding of the role of the police (thus making it easier for the police to work with the public) and may also help reduce the number of false emergency calls received (which do have a very real cost and distract from the genuine emergencies).

For a couple of days effort it's a reasonable idea - shame they've cocked it up.

Re:So (1)

Lillebo (1561251) | more than 3 years ago | (#33906490)

Why does a police force need a PR department?

-molo

You know very well that government budgets are, in part, controlled by public opinion. There's a reason police pose for the press when they make a bust/solve a crime. Stop being a douche.

Re:So (1)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 3 years ago | (#33926688)

There are a lot of reasons.

In my city,when there are crimes in some parts of town, the police organize community responses where civilians help police canvas the area and talk to possible witnesses. In some minority (especially latino areas) a lot of people are VERY wary of speaking to the police, but they are more willing to talk to an average civilian. These are organized by police PR.

Another thing that's really nice in my city is that there are a number of mailing lists--my ~150 home neighborhood home owners association listserv for example, where police are members--when there is crime or questions about crime, the police pr people can quickly answer questions or provide information. They is is also linked in to that national night out thing, regardless of ho you feel about that. PR also helps organizing sending officers / others to community meetings, schools, etc. Neighborhood watch as an example.

Police PR also get information more generally about police accomplishments or problems, ongoing cases, etc. Basically, and obviously, anywhere where the police need to interact with the greater public, PR can help there. With a question like yours, why does ANYBODY needs a PR department?

Personally I'd rather have PR people doing this type of work than more expensive and more trained (and BUSIER) officers spending time tweeting, emailing, etc rather than being on the street!

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33903914)

Why do police need publicity?

Re:So (1)

anonicon (215837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893790)

Oh, yeah, totally! WTF is up with blowing taxpayer money by multi-tasking and educating the public about their mission and seeing what the police see!?

/sarcasm

So (-1, Troll)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893008)

A police force of 10,000 people [ibm.com] is whining because they get approximately 100 calls per hour? Give me a break. Government service at its best...

What I especially like are the calls "threatening post on facebook". Your tax dollars at work - society has turned into a bunch of whining women, and the police themselves are no exception.

Re:So (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33893056)

# call 1068 bag stolen in street in Oldham #gmp24
# call 1069 bag of sand obstructing traffic in Oldham #gmp24


1) steal a bag of sand
2) obstruct traffic with said bag
3) ???
4) profit!

Re:So (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894050)

call 1407 information request about Twitter day

someone needs to call in for an information request about call 1407 and why is an info request a "call".
post the call number, repeat, recurse.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34002930)

Because they called to police to make the request instead of writing a letter?

Re:So (1)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 3 years ago | (#33895124)

When I first saw that, I wanted to know why the fuck my fellow countrymen decided to burden the police with knowledge of the sand bag instead of picking it up, moving it off the road, and carrying on with their lives. Maybe they could send the police an email about what they'd done if they felt the need.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34004212)

Perhaps they weren't physically capable of moving the sandbag

Re:So (2, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893198)

Jesus, you have *no* idea what you're talking about.

First of all, only a small portion of the force is on at any given time. It's not like there are 10k cops walking around all the time, they need to sleep occasionally and take days off. And the ones that are on duty but not going to a call are patrolling, not watching TV.
Second of all, if somebody wants to report it, they have to come and take the report. That's how it works - they don't just seek out posts.
Third of all, while somebody complaining about a Facebook post seems a little silly, it could easily be a serious death threat from a crazy ex, or something. We don't know - but it could easily be something that you'd want to report.
Fourth of all, why are the *police* part of this "whining women" bunch? Support that statement

In short, fuck off. You're not clever or witty, just a stupid asshole. It's a travesty that some other stupid asshole thought you qualified as "Insightful"

Re:So (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893296)

Fourth of all, why are the *police* part of this "whining women" bunch? Support that statement

Because they are stunt-posting these calls to twitter. If they gave a damn about the goals for a police force - not just doing their jobs as they define them - they would make all this information easily accessible all of the time. But, since that sort of disclosure would likely hold them to higher public accountability, they are only doing it for a single day.

Re:So (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893440)

Because they are stunt-posting these calls to twitter. If they gave a damn about the goals for a police force - not just doing their jobs as they define them - they would make all this information easily accessible all of the time. But, since that sort of disclosure would likely hold them to higher public accountability, they are only doing it for a single day.

If I had a choice between their 'workforce' patrolling the streets and dealing with crime or making 'all that information' publicly available, I'm voting for them to spend my tax dollars dealing with crime rather than publicly displaying the daily grid of shit they deal with. To bastardize an old saying, police work is like making sausage and passing laws, someone needs to keep an eye on it to make sure it's not going astray but I sure don't want to see how it all works.

Re:So (1, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893550)

If I had a choice

False dichotomy.

To bastardize an old saying, police work is like making sausage and passing laws, someone needs to keep an eye on it to make sure it's not going astray but I sure don't want to see how it all works.

Naive recipe for abuse.

Re:So (1, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893836)

First of all, only a small portion of the force is on at any given time.

      Yes, roughly 1/3. It's called a shift. But then again the calls aren't all happening at once, either. Some officers do become free to deal with new calls after an hour or so.

Third of all, while somebody complaining about a Facebook post seems a little silly, it could easily be a serious death threat from a crazy ex, or something.

      Yes, it could be. Or it could be a terror plot aimed at destroying the world! Oh my god, it could be the start of World War Three! This is what happens when you start dealing in "pre-crime" and acting out of "an abundance of caution". The guy who was jaywalking *COULD* be on his way to murder the Queen. But then again he might not be.

      Personally I blame the lawyers - they are responsible for this behavior because they take the single victim from the group of 100 "threatened" persons, point to them and say "see? I told you so? THIS COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED" and slap you with a lawsuit. The reality is that the police are wasting their time 99% of the time when dealing with crap like this - it was never going to go anywhere anyway. The answer is not more police, and more use of force. The answer is educating people - just like all those idiots who crowd my emergency room because of the sniffles, which means the stroke and the heart attack need to wait 2 extra hours.

Fourth of all, why are the *police* part of this "whining women" bunch?

      As someone else pointed out - the mere fact that they feel the need to post "how tough" it is to do their jobs classifies them as whiners.

In short, fuck off. You're not clever or witty, just a stupid asshole.

      Is this the official law enforcement answer? I only say this because you referred to the police as "we". Why are you taking this personally? It's not like you designed the police force and turned it into what it is today. You're probably just a very small cog in a large machine, and you have no choice but to do your job as best you can. I am criticizing the machine as a whole, and society as a whole: not you. However when a person reacts in the manner you just did, it does speak about a certain level of insecurity.

Re:So (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33897008)

Yes, roughly 1/3. It's called a shift. But then again the calls aren't all happening at once, either. Some officers do become free to deal with new calls after an hour or so.

Only if they're working 7 days a week. If they take holidays and a few days sick leave then roughly 1 in 6 are available at any given time. They also have to deal with things like giving evidence in court.

In fact, of that 10000, only about 1100 will be publicly available. And that's assuming they're all front line full time staff. The caterers and cleaners aren't going to be dealing with crime either. Yes, it could be. Or it could be a terror plot aimed at destroying the world! Oh my god, it could be the start of World War Three! This is what happens when you start dealing in "pre-crime" and acting out of "an abundance of caution".

Someone, who we can reasonably believe has some level of judgement, is concerned that a crime may be in progress. So the police should look into the allegations.

Re:So (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33905164)

Yes, roughly 1/3. It's called a shift

You work 1/3rd of all the hours in a year ? 8 hours a day 365 days a year, no days off, never a day of vacation, nor a single day of sickness or other absence, ever ?

In the real world, people who work fulltime work perhaps 1/5th of the time, not a third.

Re:So (4, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893206)

Because every single one of those 10,000 people is dedicated to answering the phone.

According to the paper you linked, they only have 7000 officers to cover 500 square miles. The entire point of this exercise is to highlight the sheer volume of work they have to deal with and how much of their time is wasted on bullshit calls.

Quite frankly I wish MORE police agencies would do similar. This should be public information to begin with, and it helps create awareness of what these people go through on a daily basis. The transparency is nice. It takes all of 20 seconds for the person taking the call to type it out.
=Smidge=

Re:So (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893392)

You're assuming the mentality of someone who calls in with an idiotic report is going to be disuaded by this. More likely it won't make a dent in the usualy pointless calls, and instead they'll get a new bunch of hoax calls from people who think it's a fun new game trying to get the police to tweet their joke report.

Re:So (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894066)

No, I'm assuming the more sensible people who complain about it anyway might gain some modicum of understanding.

And it's possible that some people might make hoax calls... but if you'll notice the tweets don't give any real detail so it's not clear how successful such a hoax would be, plus it's already illegal to knowingly make false reports so the joke will be on the caller when they end up being arrested. Good plan.
=Smidge=

Re:So (1)

a_fuzzyduck (979684) | more than 3 years ago | (#33895042)

instead they'll get a new bunch of hoax calls from people who think it's a fun new game trying to get the police to tweet their joke report.

for five minutes, until the joke wears thin

Re:So (1)

eldorel (828471) | more than 3 years ago | (#33895322)

only have 7000 officers to cover 500 square miles

I seriously hope that either they're covering a larger area than this, or you screwed up on these numbers.

7000 officers / 500 miles = 14 cops per square mile

Lets split that into 3 on duty shifts and assume that 25% are off duty at any one time (10% would be more likely, but I'll err on the side of caution).

This still leaves 3.5 cops on duty for every square mile.

Even when you account for detectives, administration, maintenance teams, and dispatch, that's still absolutely insane.

This is especially excessive considering that most of the dispatch/maintenance/administration personnel can be shared between districts fairly easily, so personnel requirements are directly proportional to size of area.

Re:So (1)

Xrikcus (207545) | more than 3 years ago | (#33896008)

The City of London police covers 1.1 square miles with 813 police officers. That's one policeman for every 10 residents, interestingly, though obviously number of residents in the city is a fairly meaningless number.

The NYPD covers 468.9 with 35,284 police officers, or 75 per square mile.

Re:So (2, Insightful)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33896252)

Policeman per unit population is a more sensible measure than per square mile anyway. Land doesn't commit crimes.

The UK is much more densely populated than the USA, don't forget.

Excellent parodies also available. (4, Funny)

elvum (9344) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893128)

Take a look at the excellent [twitter.com] parodies [twitter.com] too.

Re:Excellent parodies also available. (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893158)

Note that the second one is no longer using the police crest because the official account threatened him with copyright infringement.

Carry my cell phone or not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33893138)

So, while robbing banks, should I carry my cell phone?

On one hand, it can help the coppers track me.

On the other hand, it lets me know when the coppers are trying to track me.

*sigh* And everyone told me being a criminal would be simple.

I like the idea. (3, Informative)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893574)

It's a good idea. I work indirectly for a section of the government whose goal is to solve disasters in cities, and because of that I have access to recorded events attended by firefighters. Happens things all the time every day, more than 30, 50 events per day, and the most varied situations as possible. The public thinks that firefighters only fights fires, but when you are there "in" seeing what happens see that they actually do much more than that. The same for the cops.

Re:I like the idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33896064)

"The public thinks that firefighters only fights fires"

BS. The public also knows they pull people from cars and are more equivalent to rescue workers. They see people rescued from frozen ponds, or pulled from roaring rivers or water main breaks. Ever hear of 9/11? Jaws of death, the hydraulic cutter?

You're just another idiot who things the general Joe or Jane are dunces.

btw, they also save kittens out of trees too. Don't forget that.

"The same for the cops."

Don't you dare equate the two. A firefighter isn't going to take your money or ruin your life with a bullshit charge. We've seen that REPEATEDLY in the USA. Firefighters certainly screw up, but it's usually passive or misdirected (like that somewhat recent "let the house burn down" while standing by story on /.) and it's usually not directed fucking up purposefully a person's life.

People have negative reactions to cops usually because cops too often protect their own ass first, are slow to respond, don't respond, are there on the scene, attack bicyclists, etc. Most people know the vast, vast number of cops out there are deserved and good, but they also know they don't know which particular cop they are encountering in a given incident, and know if it's a bad one, you're life can be fubar'd or ended by a cop having a "bad day."

As to the twittering, I think it's stupid. It'll simply be another excuse for while a police officer didn't do their job when it was right there in front of them. And it'll soon spill over as excuses for areas with high cop to civilian or geographical area ratios, where cops that aren't burdened will soon not do their jobs because they'll claim they were "busy" doing something else.

Re:I like the idea. (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33899484)

Oops, Troll with low capacity of Interpretation detected, raise shields and prepare torpedoes!

Usually I do not answer people low enough to offend gratuitous under the protection of anonymity, but in this case I open an exception to prevent someone read what you spit and unintentionally may think that is the truth.

Anonymous, in my country most people think the firefighters' work is just putting out fires. And I stress the part "most". And they are not "dunces", simply do not know, is rare here to show on TV the cops doing the salvaging job when the firefigthers are not available. And in particular, they, again mostly, think the police only fight crime, when they do much more than that. In my country. I do not know how it is there - I can only assume by the way the north-americans are paranoid - but here is how I describe. And I honestly can not understand why you are angry at this.

Spoof accounts targeted by police (2, Informative)

Blacklaw (311963) | more than 3 years ago | (#33893872)

Looks like the GMP doesn't have much of a sense of humour - it's threatening spoof account holders with the crime of impersonating a police officer [thinq.co.uk] . Shame, because some of 'em are very well done - such as the Super Mario Brothers version...

Re:Spoof accounts targeted by police (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894414)

They are using two or three different accounts to reduce the load on one individual account - no I don't understand either - but it does highlight the need to eliminate imposters.

Delay? (1)

denbesten (63853) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894090)

TFA does not mention it, but I hope the tweets are delayed from real time. After all, one would not want to give a thief advance notice that the police are on the way. Pretty obvious and I'm sure it occurred to the police, but I am a little disappointed (but not surprised) that the reporter did not mention this aspect.

Local volunteer fire departments already do this (2, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33894576)

This is not new.

The complexity of modern policing is trying to figure out if a petty criminal is more dangerous to a large group of citizens than a corporation committing massive fraud.

Why would they need to force post their calls? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33896948)

Since when was Twitter located in the UK; since when did the police have the right to force a web site to post their stuff?

The UK police could just tweet them, you know; like everyone else does.

Then they wouldn't have to go through the nasty steps of "force posting"

Life imitating art? (1)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33896964)

Reminds me alot of Neasden Police station log from Private Eye. From wikipedia, as I can't find an example online:

"A fictional police station log, satirising current police policies that are met with general contempt and/or disdain. Ordinary police activities are ignored, with police attention limited to 'counter-terrorism' and obsessive political correctness and pointless bureaucracy. Examples may include an incident in which an elderly woman is attacked by a gang of youths, and is arrested (and unfortunately dies of "natural causes" in police custody) for infringing on their right to terrorise OAPs, or the officers who arrest themselves for ordering a Full English, in direct contravention of the Celtic Minority (Non-Discriminatory Breakfast Provision) Regulations 2006."

well, my [cohabitor]'s abusing me... (3, Interesting)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#33899100)

...and I know what happens if he finds out I've reported it, so I guess I won't now.

Re:well, my [cohabitor]'s abusing me... (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 3 years ago | (#33904630)

In the US, this kind of thing is reported in the paper anyway. It is not a new phenomenon. It's the reason why places like the YWCA and various women's shelters exist, and why people like me went to school for social work.

There's plenty of resources out there for battered, well, anybody. However, it takes a very, very determined mind to actually go for it. Even in my very limited experience, I've watched abused persons who finally escaped a life of abuse (with their children, no less) not show up to the court hearing that would have ended the problem permanently. I've seen many more fail because they didn't plan their departure properly.

The worst ones I get to see are the ones where there's no physical abuse at all. To watch a guy take a woman and destroy her by taking away her career, credit, and social life is almost more painful than seeing a guy whoop up on a woman. At least when it's only physical abuse, that woman has other avenues.

It's a shitty, shitty, thing to watch, but don't think this twitter thing really makes it any worse. The usual advice is to tell a person to prepare for when the time comes, when they finally get pushed to far: Let the shelter know whats going on ahead of time, plant "if something happens, X DID IT" notes, make an escape bag and hide it well.

If a person really means to escape any kind of abuse, it is very possible. It does, however, require a little bit more than just a cop.

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