Oxford Police Department shows a sense of humor with social media

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Oxford Police Department started to increase its presence on social media in the spring of 2015 by posting photos of wanted suspects, tweeting during online “ride-a-rounds,” and letting people know where wrecks had traffic backed up.

The effort paid off in several ways, according to police officials, from helping to solve crimes and increasing public relationships.

“It allows us to be more personable and show a softer side,” said OPD Chief Joey East. “The virtual ride-a-long was a huge success. I have people calling me or stopping me wanting to know when our next one will be. The community seems to love what we’re doing.”

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East said OPD’s Twitter went from a few hundred followers in early 2015 to more than 10,000 currently.

“That’s a strong statement,” he said.

Becoming more visible

OPD has been using humor to try to bring more people to their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Lt. Hildon Sessums knew that the department needed to become more visible in the community and suggested the social media push last year to East.

“I got to talking with Maj. Jeff McCutchen while he was in the FBI National Academy while all the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri was going on,” Sessums said. “I had been reading studies showing that law enforcement departments that had an active social media presence generally had a higher favorability within their community.”

Sessums takes the “blame” when it comes to the wittier Tweets that have been posted recently.

“Sometimes the tweets just set themselves up,” he said. “There’s a lot of serious stuff going on in the world right now, and if we all took a moment to step back and laugh, this place would be a lot better. Plus, it shows we aren’t ‘all business’ all the time.”

Earlier this month, OPD took some heat from a tweet about LSU coach Les Miles after a photo of Miles in a police uniform as part of an upcoming movie circulated around social media.

“Season hasn’t even started and some people are already looking for a new job,” the account tweeted on Tuesday evening, quoting the picture and using the hashtag, “#WelcomeToTheForce.”

Sessums said while some of OPD’s non-law enforcement-related tweets might cause some controversy, the banter leads to more people following OPD on social media.

“When sites such as SEC Country, Saturday’s Down South, and other sites pick up your tweets it sends people to our page,” Sessums said. “Hopefully they will follow along, and when we have actual emergencies we have that many more people we can reach.”

Sessums said some people have reacted negatively to some of the tweets, especially when they’re about football.

“We’ll get comments saying that we are wasting tax payer dollars by having someone tweet — most of the tweets are done when I’m off duty at home,” he said. “Others understand that we are just having a good time and play along.”

East said while Sessums is one of the most active officers on social media, several others help keep the sites up and active.

“He has the sense of humor in the group for sure and is very witty with his comments and remarks. But there are also many others behind the scene, people who help — Jeff McCutchen, Megan Prescott, Alan Ivy and Bridgette Frierson all play a big part keeping everything updated with photos and information,” East said. “Besides all the officers are now sending them anything they think is important or that the community would just like to know about.”