Opinion: Why isn’t our police department being held to higher social media standards?

Posted on Sep 10 2018 - 5:50am by Madison Bickert

A universal rule that everyone should learn when they download that baby-blue-birded app is that all is fair in love and Twitter. As most know, Twitter is the Mecca for the newest trending memes as well as for the most sarcastic and brutal. Like with most of social media, it is wise to be cautious of what you say and to whom you’re saying it. It is not uncommon for a Twitter war between one or a few people to erupt, causing an opinion or idea to go viral — especially when you try to start a war with the police.

The Oxford Police Department has a Twitter account it uses to send out alerts and updates on anything from traffic reports to its trend, #RidewithOPD — Oxford’s version of “Cops.” Thousands of followers wait eagerly for these tweets to appear on their timelines with hilarious memes and jaw-dropping accidents.

I love a funny Twitter account as much as the next person, but at what point does it start to become unprofessional? One example of OPD’s tweets was recorded on Aug. 18, when OPD posted a tweet of a horse with a lipstick mark on its nose, commenting “kissing the cops in public.” A girl responded to the tweet, saying that she had previously been arrested for that exact reason. OPD responded that she had been arrested for being under 21 and intoxicated as well as for slapping the horse.

Though this interaction might make you laugh, it calls into question whether or not the police department — the very entity that most people would hope would remain as unbiased and professional as possible — should be allowed to comment something like this.

By using Twitter, OPD is bound to get some negative emails in its personal messages, but should the department stoop down to the level of internet trolls?

Another thing that is called into question is whether an officer should say this in person. Under pressure of unruly citizens, officers are required to remain cool, calm and collected. In my experience, OPD has done a great job with that in person, but on a social media platform with thousands of viewers, shouldn’t the department be even more cautious? (Not to mention that the girl in in the tweets never mentioned that she was intoxicated and under 21 at the time.)

OPD’s response and use of this private information to emphasize its point caused the tweet to go viral. Even though many of the rules go out the window when posting on the internet, when a social media account is attached to a governmental body, there must be boundaries.

I’m not trying to discourage our wonderful officers at OPD from using Twitter or from having fun reaching out to the community. Twitter wars between other departments, lip sync challenges and using memes to emphasize a point are all ways to keep some sort of professional standard while still having fun using the internet. There should be a level of professionalism maintained by such a respected part of Oxford. A multitude of governmental entities utilize Twitter to get information out quickly, and yet they refrain from stooping down to this level. So why isn’t our police department being held to the same standards?


Madison Bickert is a senior international studies and German major from Corinth.