To Protect, To Serve, And...To Tweet? Local Police Learn Social Media

Jan 18, 2016

Local police officers and other government agencies got a crash course in social media last week. Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo organized two training sessions at the University of Vermont and the Burlington Police department last Thursday. 

Del Pozo, himself active on social media, hired two social media instructors from his former gig, the New York City Police Department. 

Yael Bar-tur and Khadijah Carter went over the basics of Twitter and Instagram, and broached the delicate topic of finding the right voice for social media. Bar-tur pointed out that the informal nature of social media might not be second nature for officials, but stressed the importance of showing a softer side. 

"You can still bring out things that show that there are people behind these accounts. Especially when we talk about police departments," she said. "We want people to know that police officers are people."  

The course went over strategies for interacting with the public, avoiding online arguments and knowing how to communicate emergency information. 

The group included employees of local libraries, utility companies, fire departments and law enforcement agencies. Attendees were asked to craft their agencies' responses to a mock weather emergency.   

Bar-tur provided examples of the NYPD's community engagement efforts on social media, and answered questions about how local agencies might implement social media into their work. 

And when all else fails, the instructors had one more suggestion: cute animal photos.