Twitter can be fun and informative in the hands of law enforcement.
Or it can cause just a teeny fuss, as the Riley County Police Department realized again this week.
After all, it’s easy to stumble into a misunderstanding when you’re only working with 140 characters.
On Tuesday, one woman asked on Twitter why officers couldn’t respond to her call in less than fifteen minutes, since she sees so many around writing parking tickets.
Officer Matthew Droge, who uses the handle #TwitterCop and answers most tweets from the RCPD’s 5,779 Twitter followers, replied: “On occasion there can be as little as one or two available officers for the entire county…”
Droge didn’t mean to imply that the department only uses one or two officers on a given shift. He was trying to say that officers might be tied up with other calls, slowing a response time.
“We’re not ever going to push something off or not respond to it,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait until an officer is available.”
Despite the one incident that didn’t seem clear enough to a particular citizen, Droge defended the use of Twitter as a way for the police department to interact with the public, providing updates and also having a little fun.
“You have to make it entertaining or nobody’s going to pay attention to it,” he said. “[Social media] is a way the police department can interact with the community in a way that’s fun, entertaining and educational.”
The department started using Twitter heavily in 2011.
Droge said using social media is also practical, because much of the community uses it — particularly given that Manhattan’s demographic is relatively young with so many college students.
It can also be used to solve crimes.
To date, Droge said he’s sure that social media was a major factor in solving seven of them.
“It’s not just a ‘touchy-feely-like-us’ kind of thing. It’s actually a tool we use to solve crime,” he said.
Droge will post informative police information about area crime, gas leaks and traffic, but he’ll also post lighthearted tweets.
When one man tweeted, “Could [RCPD] tell my neighbors to turn their music down at 3 a.m.? At least tell them to stop blasting ‘Good Charlotte’ ...”
Droge responded that at least the man’s neighbors weren’t playing ‘Nickelback’ and to give police a call.