In Ferguson, Missouri, this week, as police officers began to look more like soldiers, and as the lack of transparency about the Mike Brown shooting continued, a police officer in Dallas took to his smartphone.
Major Max Geron heads the Dallas Police Department's Media Relations Unit, Community Affairs and Planning Unit. As Chief David Brown has emphasized to officers the importance of social media, Geron, who joined Twitter in December 2013, has taken to tweeting several times a day. Along with some personal stuff, he tweets pictures from crime scenes, links to police statements and updates on developing situations. (He also tweets the times of press conferences, which is very useful to reporters.) Even though his bio reads, "Tweets are my own," for all intents and purposes, he is the department's public face. And, Wednesday, he made his feelings known about #Ferguson.
He started the day off with this:
Then, he got into a quick conversation with a UT student.
@MacMcCannTX check my feed Mac. They're behind this thing and the best they can do now is be honest and transparent and that's just a start— Maj. Max Geron (@MaxDPD) August 14, 2014
Later, he started tweeting about the "best practices" of police officers during protests like the ones in Ferguson. A so-called "best practice," Geron said, is having police in riot gear if there's a riot. However, based on media reports, it appeared that a show of force was one of the catalysts that led to the escalation of violence in the city, he said.
"Best Practices" likely to push chaos in #ferguson. Transparency and honest dialog need to happen. Policing requires consent of the people— Maj. Max Geron (@MaxDPD) August 14, 2014
@rachaelmcbRD thank you for the support and interaction. I feel for the officers and citizens in Ferguson. Hope for peace and justice.— Maj. Max Geron (@MaxDPD) August 14, 2014
His thoughts on the matter continued on Thursday.
@conor64 i sincerely hope you're wrong.— Maj. Max Geron (@MaxDPD) August 14, 2014
Geron, emphasizing his views on the matter were academic and not DPD policy, is big on police transparency. The community trusts officers more when a department is transparent. Based on media reports, he said Thursday, "it appears the Ferguson Police Department does not have the trust of the community."
Also, social media is an important tool for a police department, Geron said. It can humanize an institution. On Monday, after a 24 hours that saw two officers kill two suspects, a "sovereign citizen" shoot at police and reports of shots fired near a college campus, Geron tweeted from the DPD's official account:
And with everything else going on Robin Williams dies.— Dallas Police Depart (@DallasPD) August 12, 2014
Looong day. #riprobinwilliams Take care of each other.
He says departments that only tweet crime statistics are missing a huge opportunity. And not just in terms of humanizing a department, but also providing departments the ability to give the public information on a crime that might not make the news due to TV's time constraints, Geron said.
Both Geron and Unfair Park looked for a Ferguson Police Department Twitter account, but couldn't fine one. But not having one is understandable for a small town. The St. Louis County Police Department does, and it's mostly been used to say the department can't release any more information because its investigation of the shooting is ongoing.
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