The great Greater Manchester Police PR bust

Marketing, media, and public relations aren’t the easiest going industries. Unpredictable, heavily influenced by public opinion and current affairs, an average day in the life is rarely an average day.
Despite the unexpected always happening in every area of PR, though, it has to be said few organisations face quite such a challenge when compared with Britain’s police forces. Here in our hometown of Manchester, the GMP has been pretty forward thinking when it comes to reaching out, offering Twitter support to residents and more in order to increase the reporting of crimes and breakdown the often sizeable wall that can stand between the public and authorities.
Today the MEN ran a story that caught our eye, partly because we like to keep abreast with all things related to law enforcement and media, but also as this is one of the bravest, potentially great, possibly pointless moves of its kind to date. Officers in some of the city’s southern suburbs (namely the notably middle-class neighbourhoods of Chorlton and Didsbury) have been handing out tickets for good behaviour, targeting teenagers in the hope of getting their point across.
With a sensationalist headline like ‘How The Police Target The Good Guys’ anyone giving the article a quick glance could be forgiven for thinking prejudice against young people had reached an all-time high. However, the tickets in question are supposed to be seen as rewards by the recipients. Think of it like a star on an exercise book, only it’s the ability to perform well socially, rather than academically, that’s being recognised. Good deeds range from putting litter in the bid to crossing roads at pedestrian-friendly points.
Sergeant Tariq Butt, based off Burton Road in West Didsbury, makes a good point. She told the MEN: “As police officers and PCSOs we only ever issue tickets in negative situations, so this is refreshing not only for ourselves, but also for youngsters who get to see a different side to us.” The problem being that someone stopping you on a cold and rainy evening to say thanks for cycling on the road with effective lights and safety gear could well be a little annoying. Or at least a mild inconvenience.
Hopefully more tact and better timing will have ensured no such situations come about. However, according to the same news piece, even without that actually happening this initiative, dubbed ‘positive policing’, has come under fire from a few young people in these areas- and so far only 20 tickets (give or take) have been handed out. Whilst some have warmed to the idea, others banded it a waste of time, explaining that getting to know local officers could help improve the often awkward alliance, albeit this perhaps isn’t the best way to go about it.
At a time when this subject is a major talking point- what with the first Youth Police Commissioner’s social media faux pas highlighting how difficult it is to launch a successful campaign that can unite police and people in the prime of their lives- these kind of concepts should be welcomed, at least as an initial experiment. But will a pat on the back make for an ingenious PR exercise, or is this likely to wind up a near miss, destined to be forgotten in months to come?