Watchdog praises GMP's public engagement on modern slavery

Greater Manchester Police and its comms team is "leading the way" in improving the law enforcement response to modern slavery and human trafficking, according to a new report.

One of the posters from Greater Manchester Police's public infomation campaign
One of the posters from Greater Manchester Police's public infomation campaign

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) singled out GMP for praise in a 105-page assessment of police forces in England and Wales.

The report looked at what forces are doing to tackle modern slavery, which has climbed up the policy agenda and was the subject of new legislation in 2015.

The report said "good engagement with the public" was one of several areas where GMP was "leading the way" with its approach to the problem.

GMP comms included a long-running public awareness campaign, called ‘Would You?’; extensive use of social media; a public conference and intelligence-sharing forums; funding drama groups to stage plays on modern slavery and human trafficking in schools; as well as wide publicity of convictions.

The inspectorate also credited Cumbria Constabulary for a "concerted communications and awareness campaign, which included an internet briefing by the chief constable".

However, it was critical of the general standard of police work on the issue in England and Wales, stating that too much of it is "reactive".

The report said: "Police forces must engage better, both internally with their own staff and externally with their local communities, to improve awareness and understanding of these abhorrent crimes."

A closer look at GMP’s comms work

Greater Manchester Police corporate comms director Amanda Coleman said: "I’m pleased to see the hard work of the team recognised in this inspection report.

"The team, led by senior PR officer Danielle Young, have worked tirelessly to ensure the communication activity supports the operations to raise awareness of the problem of modern slavery and encourage people to come forward and report concerns."

The work dates back to 2015 when the force identified modern slavery as a growing issue within Greater Manchester.

A comprehensive PR programme was developed to support the force's Modern Slavery Unit and raise awareness of the signs of modern slavery as well as publicise success stories and offer reassurance to communities.

In October 2015 Greater Manchester Police launched a modern slavery and human trafficking campaign called ‘Would You?’.

The campaign sought to educate the media and general public on what modern slavery looked like in Greater Manchester, as well as encouraging people to report their suspicions.

Using images of car washes, nail bars and brothels, the campaign asked the public whether they would recognise the signs of modern slavery.

It continues to run online and offline on posters, social media, the GMP website, pull-up banners, leaflets, branded key ring torches and digital advertising.

Since the launch of the ‘Would You?’ campaign, Greater Manchester Police has held three weeks of action, all of which have received media coverage in regional and national print, television and radio.

The latest of these was regional, and all forces across the North West used the ‘Would You?’ branding.

During the weeks of action, the media were invited to interview an officer and accompany divisions on operational activity. This was always followed up with a press release at the end of the week to publicise any arrests or victims who were discovered.

Social media has been used extensively to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking. A social media pack containing graphics, text, images and gifs has been devised and shared with partners. Both Manchester United FC and Manchester City FC have shared messages with their millions of followers.

In addition the force filmed anonymised videos with a victim, which were shared across social media and on the GMP website.

During a recent week of action, the Modern Slavery Unit held a Twitterchat, enabling followers to tweet questions about slavery and trafficking direct to the team.

The force has also live tweeted from a modern slavery patrol to give followers an insight into work taking place behind the scenes to address slavery.

Large advertising screens on the Mancunian Way, one of Manchester’s busiest roads, have been used to promote the ‘Would You?’ campaign to commuters.

In addition a campaign ran on local radio stations to encourage people to look out for the signs of modern slavery and a series of community engagement events have taken place, enabling officers to speak to the public face-to-face about modern slavery.

Finally the force is taking part in a training video for staff at HSBC. The aim of this film is to educate bank staff on the signs to look out for. GMP invited the film crew out on enforcement activity and provided them with an interview.

Separately, Avon & Somerset Police ran a modern slavery awareness campaign last week which involved staff members painting their nails blue. Of criticism the campaign received, Chief Inspector Mark Edgington responded by telling BBC local radio: "It did raise awareness and some people will disagree with this but it is their prerogative to do this."

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