Halifax police are coming to Twitter

Social media campaign is battling the success of previous PR campaigns.

The cops are coming to Twitter. Last year, the Halifax Regional Police Department hired Lauren Leal, a graduate of Nova Scotia Community College’s PR program, to concentrate on social media, and Leal is now helping police administrators and staff sergeants learn the ropes of Twitter and Facebook. Deputy chief Chris McNeil told me at Monday’s police commission meeting that he follows me on Twitter, but he hasn’t yet started tweeting himself. “I’m seeing how it’s done,” he says.

In her presentation at the police commission meeting, Leal gave an overview of the possible uses of Twitter—coincidentally using my @Tim_Bousquet account as a positive example—and explained that social media can be used as an investigative tool (cops are trolling Facebook now), as a means to get information out quickly to the public and simply as an image enhancer. Leal is the fourth full-time PR person working for the police, and in recent years the department has upped its communications output: In addition to emails issued each shift by watch commanders, the PR team puts out multiple press releases a day and issues video press releases as well.

At the same time, news media are slashing reporting staffs and cutting efforts to do original reporting, and so the temptation is to take the readily available cop PR output, repackage it, re-write press releases, interview handy communications staff and viola!, there’s a newspaper piece or the lead story on the supperhour news. It’s little wonder people in the community have a sense that crime is increasing, and nevermind stats that say otherwise.

So it’s ironic the cop PR machine was put into play this week to counter the sense of increased crime created in part by the cop PR machine. The department put out survey results that show that, contradicting the perception of increased crime, people actually feel as safe as ever. The survey results were tweeted by @HfxRegPolice.

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