Apparently, tweeting at the President is a big deal.
I know this, because a series of social media posts I created Friday have now made international news.
I have been a sworn police officer for the Gainesville, Florida Police Department since January of 2005, and I’ve had the honor of serving as the agency’s spokesperson and social media manager since 2012. Most of my time at work is spent in the safety of the air-conditioned GPD Headquarters near downtown Gainesville, but I’ve been known to show up on calls from time to time to feel like a “real cop” again.
In my earlier years, I worked Gainesville’s bar and nightclub area and investigated multiple shootings during my time there. When the shots ring out – the crowd scatters, and the cops run towards that gunfire. I’ve run towards it before, and I’ll do it again in a heartbeat. I took the oath to protect my community, no matter if I agree with them or their beliefs.
I miss “working the road,” and still willingly run towards danger when the emergency tone sounds on my police radio. I do work the University of Florida home games in uniform (which is tough since I’m a giant Alabama fan…stuck in Gator-town.)
Over the past 5 years, I have viewed law enforcement through a very different lens. I have come to realize that the public watches absolutely everything we do – and they should. The public should be able to trust the police. They should speak up when we do something wrong…and we should also speak up when one of our fellow officers does something wrong. Over the past 5 years, I have been the one to showcase the amazing things the officers of the Gainesville, Florida Police Department do on a daily basis. My fellow officers prove daily that we can be an effective law enforcement agency and look pretty darn professional while doing it.
President Trump has been very vocally supportive of police, and it is certainly appreciated. I’m a card-carrying Republican and it’s nice to know that the guy in the White House respects what we do and broadcasts his support.
On Friday, towards the end of the day, I caught wind of a speech the President had made earlier in the day. I found a clip online, hit play and listened.
“Did he really say what I thought he did?” I asked myself…so I played it back.
Yes. He did say that.
The President of the United States just said to cops “please don’t be too nice” when throwing criminals inside a paddywagon. He continued by telling cops that he understands that we hold our hands above an arrestee’s head to keep them from hitting the car when putting them inside. The President of the United States said we could “take the hand away” when putting a murder suspect into a police car, to me insinuating that he was okay with police officers hitting arrestee’s heads onto the car.
Not to jump to any conclusions, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. My current world is PR and communications, and I completely understand that context is everything. The President was talking about MS-13, one of the most deadly and terrorizing gangs found in our country. He was talking about arresting them.
That’s when police officers should be the most professional. It would be very easy for the average person to want to take out their anger or disgust on a handcuffed murder suspect and that’s where police have to rise above and remain professional.
Police officers hold a very unique power granted us by the government – we have the ability to take away someone’s civil liberties by arresting them, and we have the ability to take a life. Both of those powers require amazing amounts of trust from the government and by the people. Folks holding that kind of power should be held to a higher standard and should be expected to remain professional, even while arresting the worst criminals.
I published 4 main messages Friday. The first was to my personal Twitter and then to my personal Facebook account. I knew I was going to do those anyway because my friends and family need to know exactly where I stand. I also knew that the Gainesville community needed to hear from their police department.
Chief Tony Jones has given me very loose reins for the past 5 years. Although I have had a few instances where I probably should have thought a second time before hitting “post,” I have the ability to say what I feel needs to be said through our official channels. At the end of the day, however, I knew that speaking against the President of the United States from a police department’s official account is not an every day event. I wanted to take a moment and let the Chief know that I believed Gainesville needed to hear from us. I presented my case to him, and he gave me the go-ahead without much fanfare, which tells me that he’s comfortable keeping those reins loose. I then published a message from GPD’s Facebook and GPD’s Twitter.
What blows my mind is that my personal tweet has over double the reach of either of the department messages.
Folks from around the world have now reached out to me to thank me for my remarks. Others have reached out to tell me how much of an idiot I am. I’m grateful for the compliments, and I’m a cop…so I have very thick skin – the dissenters just get the delete button.
I realized that when folks from around the world send you messages that say things like “thank you for restoring my faith in police” and “I would never agree with a cop but I agree with you” then I know I stumbled into something bigger than myself.
I have the honor of working around very professional police officers here in Gainesville. I like to think that we do things differently here than the other agencies that you see making headlines. Our headlines are made with positive interactions. We are absolutely not perfect. I’m not saying that. We learn from each incident that we face – but we understand that our mistakes cost people their freedom, their dignity and sometimes their lives. I’m proud that my fellow officers realize that and carry their power with integrity and professionalism.
I’m a cop. And I will always serve and protect with integrity. I know there are thousands of cops out there just like me, and I hope that in your time of need that you interact with one of the thousands of cops that choose to serve you with integrity. There are more like us than the ones you saw cheering behind the President on Friday.
Now I need another donut.