Port Moody cops creating connections, one tweet at a time

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When Sgt. Brad Sheridan of Port Moody Police Department began tweeting about the routine events taking place during his shift, he thought it would be a way to give local residents a glimpse into what officers face while on duty.

Two year have passed since then and the popularity of PMPD’s tweet-alongs have surprised the longtime cop, who has received messages from people from across North America.

More importantly, he said, social media has worked to improve communication and break down barriers between police and local residents.

“The response has been remarkable,” he told The Tri-City News. “I think it creates a real connection with the community.”

His last tweet-along was held on Aug. 1 — sample tweet: “While in the midst of a dispute, please do not slap each other with flip flops.  Generally, this is not productive” — and he is planning another one for tomorrow (Aug. 16), which is expected to kick off at around 7 p.m.

Sheridan said people are generally curious about what the police do and he is often approached while on shift by members of the public. Some people will even participate in ride-alongs, an experience he believes can be replicated virtually using Twitter.

“It creates an engagement with the community that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” he said. “It shows people what we deal with on a day-to-day basis.”

Over the two years that he has hosted tweet-alongs, Sheridan said he sharpened his understanding of what kind of tweets will be most popular. He also has to be careful about how much information he reveals about a suspect or the identities of the people involved in a police incident.

As well, he tends to steer away from some of the darker aspects of the job, noting that the funnier stories generally garner the best responses.

For example, the tweet above about two people in a dispute slapping each other with flip flops had more than 700 retweets. Later in the evening, another post about a man who fled a traffic stop and then fought with an officer was only shared twice.

“People are very attuned to humourous things,” he said. “Those really catch people’s interest.”

(Another example from last week: “Phone scam alert. Someone from 604-678-9476 is trying to steal your identity info. If you answer this call, harsh language is authorized.”)

Sheridan is one of a growing number of Lower Mainland police officers with their own Twitter accounts. Most departments are also on social media, although engagement and consistency of posts varies.

“If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “It wouldn’t work. It takes a certain amount of time.”

• The next tweet-along will take place on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. Residents can follow @PortMoodyPD.

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