The officers of the Lima Police Department are trained to handle any situation.
Armed suspects? No problem. Tracking burglars? Sure. Protecting the residents? Absolutely.
But smart alecks on social media? That’s a bit more tricky.
“It’s something I was not completely prepared for when I took on the role of social media,” admitted Sgt. Andy Green, the man in charge of patrol services for the LPD and the guy behind the department’s updates on Twitter.com/limapolice and Facebook.com/LimaPoliceDepartment.
It’s surprising how many people will openly admit their intentions to commit a crime on social media. Take an exchange from last weekend.
“Bout to get some green. Bahahaha so stoked to smoke,” wrote a Twitter user, throwing in hashtags such as #Stoner and #RollinABlunt.
Little did the woman expect this response from the Lima Police Department: “You sure that’s a good idea?”
A short conversation ensued before the user summarized, “Lima PD can find time to send me tweets when we’ve got enough crime going on around here,” along with hashtags of #BecauseIGotHigh and #IKnowMyRights.
Lima PD’s Green brought the funny: “It’s called #multitasking,” showing he can use hashtags too while adding #drugsarebad.
Most people are respectful to police officers. Still, police often deal with people trying to incite a negative response when they’re on patrol, trying to bait officers into inappropriate reactions.
The Internet brings out an ever worse level in some people, though.
Green said he tries not to fall for the “trolling” on the Internet, when people try to provoke a negative response. Still, he sees “teaching moments” where he can explain why the police handle situations the way they do. Still, he follows his “15-minute rule,” waiting to respond until he has a chance to formulate an appropriate response.
“I want to be able to go in and defend the position of the Police Department. I take a lot of pride in the Lima Police Department, and so does everyone else in the Lima Police Department,” Green said. “We believe it’s a great organization, so it’s a hard pill to swallow when people are saying things we just know are untrue.”
That’s the hardest part of monitoring an organization’s social media presence. As the hall monitor for The Lima News’ online presences, I often want to strike out at people criticizing the organization in ways that seem unfair to me. You want to defend it or try to explain it.
Green’s 15-minute rule pays off, though. You find a nicer way of diffusing the person’s comments.
Green said in those 15 minutes, other members of the social media community often step in to defend the police, Green said.
“‘Keyboard bravery,’ I’ll call it,” Green said. “They think just because they’re behind the computer and not physically in front of a police officer, they can say whatever they want.”
Green recently spent part of a weekend responding to someone planning to use Allentown Road as his personal drag strip. Green responded with humor, saying the police will be there to meet him. Generally the department won’t let social media interactions drive enforcement plans, although it can be helpful. The department found out about an underage drinking party recently.
The department also uses its Facebook and Twitter accounts to update the public on accident scenes to avoid, share photos of officers doing good deeds and even spread the word on people with active warrants.
“It’s been a great tool for us,” Green said.