Kan. Dept. Tweets Dispatch Calls to Inform Public

Wichita residents will get an online glimpse of what police deal with for one hour Thursday morning through the social media site Twitter.


WICHITA, Kan. -- Wichita residents will get an online glimpse of what police deal with for one hour Thursday morning through the social media site Twitter.

Visit Wichita's Twitter Page

The Wichita Police Department announced Wednesday morning, on Twitter, that it will post all of its dispatch calls from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on its Twitter page.

Police say they will give a summary of calls.

"We're somewhat limited on what we can do, because we've only got 140 characters," said Lt. Doug Nolte, public information officer for Wichita police and one of two people who oversee the department's social media.

Officer Jerod Metcalf will monitor dispatch feeds on his office computer and compose tweets during the hour.

On Twitter, people around Wichita began sharing the news with their friends. All but one of the first nine reactions welcomed the experiment.

"I'm now following, specifically because you are going to do that," Walker Schwartz said.

"OK, that's a flat out cool idea," added Davis Ray Sickmon Jr.

Nolte said the WPD received 69 new followers in the first few hours after the announcement. The account had nearly 4,000 followers as of midday Wednesday.

Police here got the idea after the Seattle Police Department tweeted a day of its dispatches on Tuesday.

Departments in the U.S. and abroad have provided online, real-time snapshots of dispatches to show the public the volume of calls they receive. In April, police in England tweeted from court to show how busy they were during one morning's docket.

"It's a way of being transparent, and letting people see what we do and have access to information that they normally wouldn't," Nolte said.

Nolte said police wanted to try it for just an hour to see how it went.

"If we tried to do this at 9 o'clock on a Friday night, our fingers would fly off," he said.

Some readers suggested on Kansas.com that people might make crank calls just to see it show up on Twitter.

Making a false police report is a crime in Kansas.

"The dispatch operators have the capability to know the source of the calls, and if that would happen, we would deal with it appropriately," Nolte said.

Nolte said police have not had problems with people abusing its online social media accounts, either on Twitter or its Facebook page, which has more than 3,800 followers.

"Online, we've found people usually moderate themselves," Nolte said, with other followers calling out people who act inappropriately.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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