Friday, October 16, 2015

This KC Police #Tweetalong Makes Us Want One in St. Louis

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Kansas City police and Veterans Affairs workers visit a homeless during Friday morning's 'tweet-along.' - IMAGE VIA @KCPOLICE
  • Image via @kcpolice
  • Kansas City police and Veterans Affairs workers visit a homeless during Friday morning's 'tweet-along.'

We don’t engage in much Kansas City envy over here in the Gateway City. Yet today we find ourselves wondering: Could whoever runs Twitter for the various St. Louis area police departments take a look at their counterparts to the west?

This morning, the social media-savvy cops behind @kcpolice treated followers to one of their brilliant tweet-alongs — or, excuse us, #tweetalong. And it was one of their best yet. 

Cops from the city’s Crisis Intervention Team hooked up with outreach workers from a local Veterans Affairs office to visit homeless camps. The string of vignettes and photos, posted in real time, comes off as a Studs Terkel-style peek into a usually unseen world. It’s revealing both for the homeless and the cops.

We learn about a couple that built a little house, complete with a porch out front and vegetable garden. We see a photo of the catfish a man flayed and ate. Here’s a quote from a military vet they found: “I ain't the kind of guy who needs help unless I'm crippled in a wheelchair. I'm not like rest of guys here. I'm ambitious.”
It helps the optics, of course, that this wasn’t a roust. The cops and VA workers were just there to offer assistance.

Not everyone is a fan. Critics raise some points about privacy that are worth thinking about, but judging by the reaction online, most people find it fascinating.
Most official police Twitter feeds are a string of grip-and-grin photos, traffic bulletins and light dad humor, usually in support of the local sports teams. To be sure, @kcpolice has all of that, but the virtual ride-alongs add a fascinating element not often seen. Past tweet-alongs followed beat cops on night patrols and officers focused on mental health calls.

Love them or hate them, cops see some interesting stuff. Taking people along for the ride is one thing that police officials and community groups often say they want — an opportunity to interact before there's a confrontation.

That used to happen with cops walking the beat. In K.C., it's happening online. 

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the writer at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com


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