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Published: Friday, 2/21/2014 - Updated: 9 months ago

Police reach out to public with tweets from the beat

Online interaction shows officer’s day-to-day work shift

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Braun Braun
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Tweet! Tweet! That's the sound of the police.

No KRS-One performances on the streets of Toledo today, but rather an inaugural live, Internet-based look at a shift-in-the-life of veteran Toledo police Officer Paul Toth.

Police Sgt. Kevin Braun, who manages the department's social media accounts, will be Officer Toth's sidekick during the afternoon shift, 2:30 to 10:30 p.m., tweeting the good, the bad, the barking dog complaints, break-ins, shots fired, and anything else that the unit might be dispatched to.

“I'm really hoping that it gives people an opportunity to see what an officer does on a daily basis,” said Sergeant Braun, who will use his iPhone to send tweets from the department's official account, @Toledo_Police, and use #TPDLive to curate a searchable list of all tweets from the day.

What happens during the tweet-a-long today is up to the criminals and people of Toledo who call 911 for police service.

Officer Toth, who usually works as a one-man unit, primarily in North Toledo, downtown, and Point Place, will likely be an out-of-service crew and able to respond to calls all over the city, although an official game plan had not been set Thursday night.

Being at the mercy of the general public, which is basically an officer's job description, means anything is game. The crew could move swiftly from call-to-call, responding to fender-benders and shoplifters, and those incessant barking dogs next door, or they could spend four hours of their shift at a burglary call.

“People will see what we do every day and they'll see it live,” Officer Toth said. “A lot of people see romanticized cop shows that are very far from reality. We don't do the exact same thing every day.”

Sergeant Braun said he expects people will interact with him, asking questions during the live-tweets. He said he'll respond, but cautions people to not send him messages that should be called in to 911.

“Don't tweet me that you're in a car accident,” he said. “You still need to call 911.”

Live tweeting police work is not a new practice — departments all over the country have done some type of “tweet-from-the-beat” online event.

Lima police have hosted three tweet-a-longs since summer, said Sgt. Andy Green, who manages social media accounts for the department, sometimes with suggestions and tips from his teenage daughter.

Showing the day-to-day work of an officer is a key component of engaging online with community members, but it also “humanizes” officers, he said.

“It's kind of a way for us to put a human side on the police department and let them know we're not just robots out writing tickets,” Sergeant Green said.

There are limitations on what Sergeant Green could or would tweet and when he would do so: no posting exact addresses before the officers arrived on scene; no names or photos of people who were taken into custody; if there was a major crime, such as a homicide, the tweeting would likely stop so as to not jeopardize the investigation.

The online interactions in Lima have been successful, Sergeant Green said. The live tweeting increased the number of the department's followers — currently more than 1,700 — and daily interactions with the public.

The Toledo police Twitter account has more than 4,800 followers since it was revived in May when Sergeant Braun left street patrol and moved to the public information office. The sergeant's current post is at the side of Deputy Chief George Kral.

Officer Toth said he's not worried about having the sergeant at his side. It's just another day at work, after all.

“If he asked me to put on a fashion show, there would be anxiety,” Officer Toth said. “I'm going to do my job like I would if no one was there.”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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