Ride-alongs are structured programs offered by many police departments that allow civilians to ride in a patrol car while observing an officer on duty. They are a great way for people with an interest in a future law enforcement career to spend “a day on the job.” Ride-alongs are also popular among journalists covering police beats.
Twitter has made the idea of virtual ride-alongs possible. Police departments can live-tweet the events that occur during a particular officer’s shift, giving Twitter followers a glimpse into the day or night’s activities. Including a specific hashtag on all of the ride-along tweets helps the department’s followers on Twitter easily keep up with the ride-along or revisit the tweets in the future.
Bryan, Texas police held a virtual ride-along this fall, and public information officer Kelley McKethan felt the activity was a success. The official @BryanPolice Twitter handle tweeted over 100 tweets during the event, describing the real-time activities of an officer and his K-9 partner as well as law enforcement information that isn’t common public knowledge. @BryanPolice gained 55 new followers during the ride-along, suggesting that ride-alongs can be beneficial to law enforcement agencies – even if they’re conducted on social media.
The Evanston Police Department in Illinois conducted a “tweet-along” with Police Chief Eddington in November. Evanston Police used #EPDChief on its @EvanstonPD handle to share the Chief’s real time movements as he worked a shift “on the street”. Follow the Evanston PD’s tweet-along on Storify.
Virtual ride-alongs allow residents to learn more about police operations including deployment meetings, directed foot patrols and traffic assists. These Twitter ride-alongs can also potentially help improve police relations with their respective communities.
It will be fun to see what other types of Twitter events local government agencies decide to implement in 2014!