recently did its first virtual ride along, also known as a TweetAlong to give the community an idea of what its officers deal with during an average shift.
To some it may seem a little passé since many police agencies have done virtual ride alongs for a while now, but it was a first for us and it was a big deal. We’d like to share our successful experience so that others who are contemplating doing it can learn about what we did and figure out how it could work for their agency.
We decided that since this was our first foray into live tweeting a patrol, I would do the tweeting as the PIO, and the officer would just go about his regular duties.
Next we had to find an officer who would be interested in having his actions essentially live tweeted for a few hours, and one who wouldn’t mind answering question from the Twitterverse. We chose Master Police Officer Al Joyner, a nearly 20-year veteran officer who, though he was on Facebook, didn’t know that much about Twitter until this event. But he was game. And that was key. He happily answered questions, let me take pictures of his work, and in the end, was proud to have participated in the event, despite some of the ribbing he got from his fellow officers.
We then decided to tweet from noon to 4 p.m., a time that according to analytics is a popular time for people to tweet. We also picked a patrol area—downtown—that would also generate interest because of the number of things going on and the number of individuals in the area who tweet.
Though I had my iPad with me, I used my iPhone to do all the tweeting. We tweeted info about why Officer Joyner became a police officer, the types of calls he responded to, and why he made some of the decisions that he made.
The tweets included text, photos, and one video. The latter was the only thing that wasn’t successful in that the sound didn’t pick up very well and it didn’t play on mobile devices. However, a follower tweeted us about using Vine, a new video app from Twitter, and we’ll likely be trying that out in the future.
Overall, I sent out almost 50 tweets; we gained nearly 60 new followers; and we had several good responses via Twitter from people asking questions and thanking us for doing such an event. We only had one negative tweet the whole time.
We call that a success.
We also received a suggestion from one of our followers for our next event: a “tweet the calls” or TweetAlong from our 911 center during national Telecommunications Week in April. We can’t wait.
If you want to learn more about TweetAlongs, I’d suggest following these police departments who do them on a regular basis: Arlington, Texas
, Las Vegas, Nevada
, and Baltimore, Maryland