Last Friday, I attended a Social Media Club of Kansas City First Friday Breakfast featuring two law enforcement offers; one from the Kansas Highway Patrol and the other from the Johnson County Sherriff’s Department. They have received local, regional and national media attention surrounding their departments’ social media presence.
Take a seasoned Highway Patrolman from western Kansas who has never used Twitter before and turn him into a pro with a growing following after just a few months. Sounds like a daunting task to tackle for some social media professionals, but thanks to a focus on transparency and clearly defined goals, the #TweetingTroppers of the Kansas Highway Patrol are doing just that. They’re also setting precedence for other states around the country that want to implement a social media strategy for law enforcement.
“What do officers do? They walk around and talk to people. [Twitter] is just another way to do it,” said Master Deputy Jill Koch of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department at last Friday’s smckc breakfast. She, along with Lieutenant Kellerman of the Kansas Highway Patrol, explained that their social media content is engaging, educational and humanizes officers, just like walking around in their community accomplishes.
At the core of the #TweetingTroppers’ strategy is education. Their goal is to add personality to public safety announcements with posts that are more engaging than just tweeting “law 5401 says this…” Instead, they want people laughing and interested in law enforcement, while also keeping the community safe. And they certainly kept us laughing through their post examples they shared with us.
The troopers pointed out that Twitter is another way to engage, but does not substitute for other channels of communication, especially 911. If there is ever an emergency, calling 911 is the only thing you should do. This is a message they constantly promote.
Just like any company or organization, the troopers do experience push back. They are constantly measuring the engagement of their posts and collecting examples to show the importance of their social media presence.
As far as a social media policy, the #TweetingTroopers do not have an approval process. Lieutenant Kellerman said, “They’ve got a gun. They’ve got a badge. We expect them to do the right thing on the road; they should do the same on social media.” And that means we should too. Breakfast attendees learned that in Kansas, even if you’re at a stoplight or sign, it is illegal to text (or tweet) and drive. Save your tweets for when you’ve reached your destination or pull over to the side of the road.