In April 2022, a Grand Rapids police officer fatally shot Patrick Lyoya. As video of the incident began circulating, public protests occurred in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids is the county seat of Kent County, with Kent County Administration offices located in the same complex as the Grand Rapids City Hall. Exacerbating the concern was the fact that, as county officials knew all too well, residents are often not entirely clear as to the distinction between city and county services and their separate areas of responsibility.
Assessing Risk to County Buildings during Public Protests
In anticipation of the increased public attention and protests, the Kent County leadership was tasked with deciding the level of risk posed to the County’s buildings and staff during the protests and allocating resources for security accordingly. Increasing security across all County buildings would cost money, and also could send a message that there was an expectation of escalation. On the other hand, not allocating sufficient resources could potentially result in harm to County staff and property resulting in injury to persons, thousands of dollars in repair costs and additional negative press.
As public tensions rose, Kent County leadership had to do two things quickly and in real-time:
- Understand and assess the volume of criticism, specifically towards the County.
- Assess the risk to the County buildings and allocate resources accordingly.
The Zencity Solution
Follow Organic Online Conversation to Track County Mentions
In the weeks following the release of the footage, posts and comments about the incident on various social media platforms amounted to over 378,000 interactions, the County’s biggest challenge was keeping track of all the conversations and identifying where residents were directing their criticism and anger.
Using Zencity Organic, the County was able to set up a customized project dashboard collecting all resident online-interactions regarding the shooting. Then, using Zencity’s advanced search capabilities, narrow down the discourse to focus specifically on mentions of “Kent County”.
In doing so, the County Administrator recognized that out of the tens of thousands of interactions directly referencing the city, county, and its leaders, only 500 interactions – less than 6% – made direct reference to the County and County officials, suggesting that the County is not the main target of the backlash and protest.
Strategic and Cost-Efficient Deployment of Resources
With Zencity data indicating that the protesters were directing their criticism at the City rather than the County, the County made an informed, data-based decision as to how much to invest and spend on protecting County buildings: “Instead of barricading all five buildings completely by putting giant construction barriers with fencing on top, I only put fencing around the courthouse, and I didn’t even armor up the other buildings”, says Al Vanderberg, the Kent County Administrator.
Data-based risk analysis and resource allocation allowed the County to “save a lot of money, around $500K – and focus resources where they were best served.” It allowed Kent County to provide for the required level of security without over-extending resources, escalating the situation, or neglecting to provide adequate protection to County staff and protesters alike.
“Zencity provides information that can help in critical decision making, not just in a crisis, but definitely in a crisis. It’s a great tool to help make those decisions that can impact people’s lives and save money.”
County Administrator/Controller, Kent County, MI