Tweetalong? Japanese Media fly to Arlington to see first hand APD’s use of Twitter
By Office of Communication
Posted on June 13, 2012, June 13, 2012

Many people in the community have come to hear the term "Tweetalong" over the past several months. It was a term that APD coined starting in December with the department's first-ever virtual ridealong showcasing Police Chief Theron Bowman and highlighting the agency's driving while intoxicated enforcement efforts. Since the Tweetalong concept was introduced, the department's Twitter followers have increased dramatically over the past year.

The department has continued to experiment with various types of Tweetalongs, from riding out with Citizens on Patrol Mobile volunteer groups to riding out with patrol officers. Most recently, the department has decided to actually conduct the tweetalongs with two of Arlington's finest, Sgt. Christopher Cook and Officer Zhivonni McDonnell, who are assigned to the media office. "It has been overwhelming the amount of positive feedback we have received from the community," said Sgt. Cook recently. "Citizens are really starting to identify with us and see our personal side," said Officer McDonnell. Assistant Chief James Hawthorne whose umbrella includes oversight of the media office said, "Social media allows us to tell our own story instead of relying on traditional media which may only include a sound-bite or two."

The Tweetalong concept has garnered a lot of attention recently, most notably some international attention from Japan. Japanese media based out of the Los Angeles bureau came across an Associated Press article that highlighted APD's use of social media. NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) flew a television news crew on Monday, June 11, 2012 to ride out with Cook and McDonnell. As they loaded up in the police Tahoe, their first question was about to Cook and McDonnell was about pitcher Yu Darvish. After the initial meet and greet, officers hit the streets to allow the Japanese media team to experience life as an Arlington police officer.

They answered calls ranging from major crash scenes, a stabbing call, to an officer assistance request. In the end, the Japanese crew learned a great deal about the use of social media by law enforcement. It is their hope that Japanese police who view the news segment will be open to this new concept of connecting directly with community members through social media, specifically Twitter.

Police departments from Dallas to Milwaukee have taken note, hosting Tweetalongs themselves and giving credit to APD. From speaking with officers from other agencies, it is evident that social media is an emerging platform to connect with residents and keep followers engaged.

Chart: Twitter Followers

July 2011 870
August 2011 982
September 2011 1076
October 2011 1161
November 2011 1240
December 2011 1976
January 2012 2011
February 2012 2290
March 2012 2488
April 2012 2869
May 2012 3026
June 2012 3512

The goal of hosting these virtual ridealongs is transparency and education. The public gets to ride in the front seat of a patrol car and see firsthand what officers experience and see on daily basis. Officer McDonnell takes lots of pictures of incidents and calls that are encountered in an effort to educate the public on police operations. "Often times, the assumption is that all police business is secretive, however we are trying to connect directly with the citizenry and break those barriers down," said Cook. "Dialogue is crucial in making our community safer," said McDonnell who regularly responds to tweets and messages sent to the APD Twitter account.

So what exactly have the followers of Cook and McDonnell experienced so far? Well, let's just say a recovered stolen vehicle, possible kidnapping, shoplifting suspects, unattended children found wandering the streets, and many other interesting calls for service that the public finds fascinating. Oh, and let us not forget the lunches that highlight some of the finest eateries in Arlington, like say for example hibachi, philly cheese steaks, and good old fashioned Texas barbeque. On a recent tweetalong, Cook and McDonnell ran into a family that was celebrating their 13 year old Jaylee's birthday. Conversation quickly turned to social media and before the end of the meal, everyone at the lunch table had signed up to follow APD on Twitter.

Reply Tweet from Jaylee's Dad reference lunch:

 use of Twitter

Media relations coordinator Tiara Richard and community relations coordinator Cheryel Carpenter, also assigned to the media office, regularly assist monitoring the department's Twitter account. APD's twitter name @ArlingtonPD is also used to post tweets related to critical incidents, traffic information, and other general community messages in addition to the tweetalongs.

APD now hosts Tweetalongs twice a month. You can follow the virtual ridealongs by signing up on Twitter and following APD at One thing is for sure, social media is not just a fad, it's here to stay and APD will continue to be on the cutting edge in communicating with our citizens. "It has been a fun ride so far and we love connecting directly with our community partners," said McDonnell. The next Tweetalong is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19th from 9 am to 4 pm. See you then!

Japanese Media fly

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