New York Police Department officials recognized the power of social media two years ago when a Facebook post of an officer giving a homeless man a new pair of shoes went viral.
Now the department’s top brass are undergoing training unlike any since the Police Academy, enrolling in Twitter School for cops.
At the most recent course, earlier this month at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Midtown Manhattan, 16 commanders spent six hours hunched over keyboards and listening to lectures from the department’s social media team.
“What is Twitter?” read one PowerPoint slide. Another explained how to send a tweet.
Good ideas: Dad humor. Using hashtags. Animal rescues.
“A lot of people seem to like when you post kittens or dogs,” said Detective Jeff Thompson.
Bad ideas: Using military time. Seeming insensitive. Falling for scams.
The training is part of a new push led by the department’s new commissioner, William Bratton, who has encouraged top officials to open accounts. It marked a big change for an agency that generally shares information with the public on a need-to-know basis, notes the WSJ article.
Not surprisingly, there’s been a learning curve. In April the NYPD’s official Twitter account asked readers to tweet photos they took posing with cops with #mynypd as a suggested hashtag.
Critics of the department embraced the hashtag but tweeted images of officers allegedly roughing up people, mostly during Occupy Wall Street.
At John Jay College, lead trainer Martha Norrick, the NYPD’s director of citizen and workforce engagement who worked for President Barack Obama‘s campaign, gave an example of what she considered to be an ideal tweet, one posted by a police precinct in San Francisco. “Officers just arrested a naked man in the bison paddock in GG Park. The bison seemed unimpressed,” it said.
“It is the perfect kind of funny,” she said. “This naked man is not named, we are not sharing a photo of him. Do not share photos of naked men on Twitter.”
Before Mr. Bratton took office on Jan. 1, the NYPD had only one official Twitter account, @NYPDnews, run by the department’s media relations team. It’s now operating dozens of accounts and wants every precinct, public housing patrol unit and transit commander tweeting by year’s end