Something really interesting happened on Twitter on April 15th, 2014 at 7:00pm. It had nothing to do with bombs, airplanes or Miley Cyrus (although all those things did trend on April 15th). This was different. A refreshing difference. A Twitter Chat happened that was unlike any other.
In Toronto, Canada, the police division in the city’s northwest corner held the #Div23Police chat. 23 Division is the unit responsible for policing that part of the city and within its boundaries is a small area that has a large Somalian population. This area has made headlines in recent years for crime, arrests, shootings and other such violence. So much so that concerted efforts were put together to help rid the community of crime and the criminals there.
By most accounts, the crack down has been a great success allowing a community a better sense of safety and freedom. But, a void was naturally created that needed to be filled with good, or the bad would easily return.
Enter something unique…Toronto Police entered with a unit designed to provide a bridge and outreach to the community. The 23 Division Somali Liaison Unit was formed and took up residence in the area. The perfect police and community bridge.
Tonight, that unit took to Twitter with their official account and reached out directly to the community. Now police doing Twitter Chats is nothing new. Often times it’s in the form of a virtual ride along or a series of broadcasts aimed at their entire population, but this was done for a very small area of a very big city.
The Unit posed 10 questions to the community all that had relevance to it and asked for their feedback in a survey.
If you compare each of those tweets to be a clock face, with each representing a number you get to 11 o’clock…almost a perfect circle. There is just one thing missing from completing the 12 hour rotation…later for that.
I’ve seen plenty of lip service and fluff by agencies all over North America in terms of “connecting with the community” and being available. This folks is the real deal. The men and women in the Unit are boots on the ground. They are in the community, working with the community and being part of something great. There is no lip service here. When I saw the questions being posed I knew that the officers really want to know the answers. They will truly take them to heart and do what is in their power to help this community.
The police weren’t the only ones talking. The community was there as well.
Was this the biggest Twitter Chat? Not at all, but it was a first for this Unit and it was aimed at a small target audience. It was robust enough and did attract some attention so it was certainly a win.
Two things every chat like this done by police really needs to include are:
- A reason
This chat had both. It is clear by the questions that the chats reason for happening was to gauge the communities feeling of the efforts the unit has undertaken and also to know how they are doing. There was engagement so it showed that the officers weren’t just throwing it all out there…they cared about the response give. This chat also had a big bonus…the survey that was put out. That blew me away. They took the chat to a third level. They are literally giving every possible way for the community to give feedback.
I mentioned earlier that the unit needs to do one more thing to close the circle and let the clock strike 12.
They asked the community to do something. They gave a call to action. What they do with that CTA determines the closure. In my opinion, they need to go right back to the community and say thanks you showing the results of the survey and any action plan that is derived from the survey. That will bring them full circle.
Having said that; there is no doubt in my mind that the brain trust behind this has already thought about that it’s already in place to do just that.
Take a look back at one particular question. This is the highlight question for me and the one that can have the most significant impact on everything moving forward.
It does matter what crime statistics say or what data analysis reveals or what the officers themselves think. Perception is reality to this community. It might not be factual or even rational, but to the community their perception is EVERYTHING. The answers that come from this one question can make or break any initiative. If the perception is not addressed then the reality will never be seen.
That is a question that more police agencies and departments really need to address more. How does your community perceive something? Ask it. Listen to the answers. Address the perception to reveal the reality.
Well done @D23SomaliUnit.