Hilliard Northwest News

Police chief: Virtual ride-along a success

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This photo of Chief Doug Francis with a lost dog was among several photos Hilliard police posted to Twitter during the police division's first "tweet-along" social media event Feb. 21.

When Hilliard police ticketed a motorist last week for driving 53 mph in a 35 mph zone, police officers in New Jersey were among those who took note.

For eight hours Friday, Feb. 21, Hilliard police Chief Doug Francis and three other officers conducted the first "tweet-along" social media event for the police division and Norwich Township Fire Department.

"It was a tremendous success," Francis said.

Hilliard officers promoted the event on the police division's Facebook page, and the division's Twitter account -- @Hilliard_Police -- had as many as 300 followers at one time during the event, including the police department in New Jersey, Francis said.

Francis, Deputy Chief Bobby Fisher and officers Mike Deaton and Hyda Slone sent about 200 tweets from noon to 8 p.m. Feb. 21.

"We burned through a lot of batteries. I used all the battery in my iPad and my cellphone," said Francis, adding he had to recharge the batteries inside the cruiser numerous times, or simply kept the devices on a charger.

Francis said the tweet-along, modeled after similar social media events conducted by Texas police departments, had several purposes, including community outreach, public education and illustrating the work ethic of the department.

"We had a full gamut of activity and a good average day," Francis said.

He said it wasn't a quiet day but it wasn't so busy as to prevent Francis and his team of officers from tweeting.

In some instances, Francis posted pictures, including traffic stops, a road crew patching potholes, a record clerk at the police station, employees at Starbucks and even a lost dog.

"Almost every call we went on, one of us sent a tweet about it," said Francis, who used in-cruiser radio traffic and dispatchers' calls at the Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center to report activity.

"We had numerous traffic accidents, a reported fight at one of the schools, a lost pet and a domestic-violence incident in which a man assaulted a family member and ran away," Francis said.

The man who assaulted the family members was arrested after a short foot pursuit, Francis said.

Another man was arrested for soliciting door to door after dusk on Braidwood Drive in Norwich Township. Officers discovered the man did not have the required permit and had warrants for fraud in Michigan. Francis posted a picture of the man as he was handcuffed.

Francis said the police division also used the event for public education, such as pointing out that Ohio law allows for the suspension of driver's licenses for failure to pay court-ordered child support.

Francis said he also injected some levity into his tweets, such as tweeting, "You might forget your court date, but we don't," in reference to a person who was arrested on a warrant after failing to appear in court.

"It's absolutely something we will do again," Francis said.