OnPolicing Blog

A Little Whimsy Helps the Warn-and-Scold

January 19, 2017

Ofc Tony Zerwas

Officer Tony Zerwas

Ofc Tony Zerwas

Officer Tony Zerwas

“Don’t speed.” “Wear your seat belt.” “Don’t drink and drive.”

Have you heard this before? Traditional messages similar to these are posted on law enforcement social media pages on a daily basis throughout the country. The messages are well intended, but have been repeated so much that they often fall on deaf ears. As law enforcement agencies, we must find a way to adapt and share these messages in a more effective manner. How do you accomplish this? Easier said than done, right?

Wrong. It’s really simple.

You’ve got to be social on social media in order to effectively spread your message. Exhibit A:

After the post went viral and made national news, Shakopee PD followed it up with a promotion of a $3,000 scholarship for treatment programs for drug users who are trying to turn their life around. It was a fantastic way to promote a little known program and boost relations with the community!

Not convinced? Exhibit B:

This Tweet in itself had more than 780,000 views. It went viral internationally. How did Wyoming, Minn., (population 8,000) make international news with a public service announcement about drunken driving? They had fun with it! Much like our counterparts in Shakopee, we use humor to spread a message that otherwise would not have gotten any attention.

If you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering if social media is all fun and games or if it can be used for serious topics as well. Good news, it can.

The appropriate mixture of having fun but being serious when needed is a recipe for success. Chisago County Sheriff’s Office does a great job of this. Exhibit C:


From the start of the Domestic Assault call all the way through to transporting the subject to the Chisago County Jail, Chisago County Sheriff’s Office tweeted each part out step by step.

The feedback was positive. News agencies from the metro area wrote stories about the creative use of Twitter, proving that you can be fun and informative at the same time. Chisago County Jail may not be a 5-star hotel, but the county’s got a 5-star Twitter program.

The bottom line is this, being social on social media is a must. You have to be entertaining and informative or your message will not have an impact on the intended audience.

You have to give your followers a reason to look for your posts. Your goal is to have your followers follow you because they WANT to, not because they HAVE to. Using humor and interacting with them is the best path to that goal.


About the Author

Tony Zerwas has been a police officer with the Wyoming Public Safety Department since 2015. Zerwas has a Bachelor of Science in police science and a Master of Arts in public safety administration. You can contact the author via email at tzerwas@wyomingmn.org if you have any questions about law enforcement and social media. Follow Wyoming PD on Twitter @wyomingpd

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