Police forces embrace social media, with bizarre results

Stop, frisk, and tweet.


Nimrod Kamer

Internet Culture

Published Sep 26, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 12:44 pm CDT

Stop, frisk, and tweet.

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Why do police forces invest so heavily in social media? Even they’re not sure.

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First, police started sending cops to Twitter school. Then they began forcing high-ranking officers to post casual daily updates about their communities. Then came the online backlash after the NYPD’s Thank a Police Officer Day. 

At a recent NATO summit in Wales, this fad rose to a degree in which policemen had to pretend to be more than polite and social-media-enabled to a virtually empty city. No one cared. It’s easy to pretend you’re down with the selfies until there’s a riot. 

Video by William Pine

These official accounts are often deserted a few hours before the event shuts down, forever lingering on the cache. The last (Welsh) signs of action on the @NATOWalesPolice account were on Sept. 8:

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Dyna’r cyfan oddi wrth y tim, gobeithio fod y trydar wedi bod o ddiddordeb. Daliwch i ddilyn i weld be sy’n digwydd nesa… Hwyl am y tro

— NATO Wales Police (@NATOWalesPolice) September 6, 2014

They retweeted a few local enthusiasts before officially dying down. Eerie:

@NATOWalesPolice #policeforcebingo The summit’s over but @WMPolice still on duty in Cardiff Bay – well done guys pic.twitter.com/RwZ9yHsBTY

— Rhodri Kendall (@Rhod_Kendall) September 6, 2014

@swpwest officers Andrew Hedley and Stewart Davies at the Meet the Forces event in Cardiff yesterday @NATOWalesPolice pic.twitter.com/P2AI5e07IK

— SW Police West (@swpwest) September 8, 2014

1.4 million people in the U.K. may follow police Twitter accounts, but it’s not all fun and games: Last week, the award-winning tweetstar Inspector Michael Brown had his account suspended after “allegations of inappropriate use of direct messaging and social media.”

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Across the pond, the NYPD of course has its own fair share of this type of procrasturbation:

PO Gonzalez#PSA6 conducting community service, playing a little game of 1 on 1 basketball with young Foley. pic.twitter.com/tjpSQxeIDr

— NYPD Housing PSA 6 (@NYPDPSA6) September 13, 2014

Then, inevitably, this happened.

Suspected Harlem muggers accidentally send selfies to NYPD using stolen phone: http://t.co/r16TjRlPng

— Metro New York (@metronewyork) February 6, 2014

It’s silly. It’s chaotic. Police do not need social media presences. It’s a level of engagement and branding that is completely unnecessary. Twitter might even benefit from losing those wildly inaccurate police scanner accounts. 

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Photo via Nimrod Kamer/YouTube | Remix by Rob Price

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*First Published: Sep 26, 2014, 9:00 am CDT