The Oxford Police Department’s spirited social media accounts reveal that trust does not depend solely on seriousness. Public Information Officer Breck Jones and Capt. Hildon Sessums are responsible for curating OPD’s often humorous social media posts.
“That’s kind of the big debate in our field, what is going to be your messaging strategy? Are we just presenting the facts or are we going to have a personality and be more human? That’s our approach here. We want to interact,” Jones said.
The department is well-known for its lighthearted humor on the social media platform X, on which they have amassed more than 50,000 followers.
OPD’s total following across platforms is roughly 100,000 accounts. For comparison, the United States Census Bureau reported that Oxford had a population of 26,437 in 2022.
A Water Valley native, Jones is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Journalism. After working with UM’s NewsWatch program during his undergraduate years, Jones aspired to go into sports broadcasting but ended up working with the local police department in a twist of fate.
“My wife had a really good job in the area, and I was able to start with the Oxford Police Department in a different role, then they created the public information officer role and asked if I would be interested in that,” Jones said. “It’s been exciting to put a lot of things I learned in my degree to use.”
OPD was looking to hire someone to create a public service announcement concerning sexual assault for social media when Jones’ supervisor recommended him due to his background in journalism. After Jones’ video proved to be a success, OPD decided to create a new role to ease Sessums’ social media workload.
Jones said that they were unsure about what the job would entail at first, but it would specifically revolve around social media, press releases and media relations. After assuming the role of public information officer in May 2019, Jones said it has been rewarding because no day in his office looks the same.
“You can expect to be working on something one day, then all of a sudden something happens, and it completely turns your day around and that has to be your focus,” Jones said. “Whenever you’re in this role, it keeps you on your toes, and you never know what to expect when you come in. That’s one of the more fun aspects of it.”
The department’s followers love their “#RideWithOPD” posts, a virtual series featured on their platforms that gives viewers a glimpse into the everyday lives of police officers. The department also hosts in-person ride-alongs, in which individual citizens ride in an officer’s vehicle.
Students and community members alike find OPD’s social media presence to be a witty diversion as well as an accessible source of vital information.
“I feel like their social media is super helpful. It is an easy way to get important information out to the public quickly,” freshman secondary education science major Caity Conrad said. “The social media accounts help maintain a relationship with the public by posting things like ‘Who’s Who Wednesday’ when they post a different police officer each Wednesday to introduce them to the public. It is a good way for the residents of Oxford to know who is protecting them.”
While OPD likes to have fun, the department takes critical moments seriously on their socials. Sessums and Jones aim to educate the public about significant matters through their posts..
“Once you build that kind of audience, people are going to look to you for the important information too,” Jones said. “Ultimately, our goal is to help people. One of the ways we can help people is by bridging that gap to make sure we have a strong community trust between the department and citizens.”