Okla. Sheriff's Tweets Among Most Popular In US
Oklahoma County's sheriff wants basketball fans and the Oklahoma City Thunder to know that streaking is illegal — but cheering, loudly, for the NBA team has yet to land anyone in the local jail.
If that doesn't sound like typical law enforcement advice, agency spokesman Mark Myers believes, that's a good thing.
Myers runs the sheriff's office Twitter account, which has become one of the most popular in the nation for mid-sized law enforcement agencies thanks to tweets ranging from cheering on the Thunder — "#Thunder down for WHAT?!!!!" — to taking followers along on DUI checkpoints and selfies of the sheriff.
"I've decided we want our brand to be more personable, and we want to have a conversation with people about what we're doing," said Myers, a former television reporter who is convincing the agency to look into new ways people absorb information.
"Since I came out of a news background, I have just been like, 'Wow, I can almost do a 24-hour news cycle about what the people in our agency are doing.'"
Law enforcement agencies around the country use social media to interact with the public. But Myers said the live-tweeting from Oklahoma County, home to Oklahoma City, has helped the agency develop an identity among residents who typically don't have much interaction with law enforcement — because they're not getting arrested.
Drinking and driving is no bueno. #CincoDeMayo— Oklahoma Co. Sheriff (@OkCountySheriff) May 4, 2014
On Throwback Thursdays, a social-media trend where users post old photos, Meyer tweets century-old photographs of lawmen on horseback or his office's dive team in the 1980s. Fugitive Fridays host tweets about the area's most wanted criminals, while other messages are about severe weather or potential scams.
But non-police business dominate other tweets, 140-character messages employing hashtags and "at" symbols to help users find and follow each other.
"If you are running the @OKCMarathon tomorrow, you should be in bed...not watching the @okcthunder. Good luck Sunday!" Myers tweeted in April. And while his beloved Thunder were amid a losing streak, he tweeted, "Streaking is illegal in Ok County."
Such interactions have helped him attract and engage with the office's 21,000 official Twitter followers, making it the most followed mid-sized law enforcement agency behind only Maryland's Howard County police.
"If people are paying attention to you when you talk about the Thunder, think about how many people will be paying attention to you when there's actual really important information," Myers said.
Was that an earthquake or the Thunder shaking things up?— Oklahoma Co. Sheriff (@OkCountySheriff) April 27, 2014
Myers began live-tweeting from drunken-driving checkpoints two years ago, and the number of followers jumped by 4,000 after the first night. Although he sometimes reveals the locations, Myers said he thinks people enjoy following along as people get busted.
"Tweet-alongs are replacing ride-alongs where people can see what we're doing," Myers said. "We're using that format for a few things, hanging out with our warrant squad like a modern-day posse, the DUI checkpoints and patrols."
Cindy Evans, a 48-year-old mother from Ratliff City, is among those followers of @OkCountySheriff.
"Sometimes their tweets are funny, but they're effective because lots of people are on Twitter and can help find the criminals when they might have trouble finding them otherwise," Evans said.
Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow, a spokeswoman at the Oklahoma City Police Department, said her agency likes what the sheriff's office is doing — but prefers to emphasize "business-related things" its social media feeds. Her agency has around 12,000 Twitter followers.