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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.

And cringed.

“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 can understand how folks may have interpreted the President’s remark as a joke, but in the current climate of police/citizen relations, the public is scrutinizing each and every move by police.  There are hundreds of cases around the country where uses of force have been questioned.  For the President to even joke about that is troubling.
I’ve been the voice of this agency for 5 years and have come to know the expectations of the Gainesville community quite well in that time.  I know that our city leaders, residents and visitors expect their local police department to protect and serve with the utmost integrity and professionalism.  When I heard the President’s remarks, I knew that our local residents needed to hear something from their police department immediately.  The tweet from my personal account was the first message I composed, and I did so because I cringed as I heard the President’s remarks.  If I, as a police officer found them improper, that the average citizen would be appalled by them.  I wanted to remind my followers that I certainly did not agree with the remarks.

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.

-BT

By day I’m a police spokesperson…but at my core I’m still a cop.

I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and to protect and serve the community.  This oath is very personal to me and I believe that one of my biggest responsibilities is to protect victims of crime.

While I’m not normally out on patrol and interacting with victims and suspects these days, I still find it vitally important to protect victims of sexual abuse by my work as a spokesperson.

I understand that alleged rape suspects deserve to have their name out there.  These people have made the decision to violate to most personal thing another person possesses – their body.

Each day as I read the jail logs and the end-of-shift reports, I cringe each time I see the charge of sexual battery…because I know that I’m about to fight a battle.  News agencies want to write these stories.

I don’t want them to.  I’m thinking about the victims.

In the past week or so, we have had the unfortunate job to investigate a number of cases involving child victims of sexual violence.  Any person that has been a victim of sexual violence is already traumatized, but I can’t fathom what these children are going through.

Unfortunately for these victims, the arrest reports of the person that raped them is public record – with some exceptions.  Florida Law does protect their names and any information that could identify them…but I constantly disagree with reporters on what information could identify them.

To me – ages and gender of child sexual violence victims are a vital piece of the identification puzzle.  Some reporters disagree.

My feelings on this are strong and they are very deeply rooted.  I will continue to fight to protect these victims.  They have been through enough already.  They don’t need to have their friends and family read about what some monster did to them.

I’m not saying that reporters don’t understand the issue…I’m saying that anyone that has the job of providing news to the public needs to seriously think “what if this were me…or my sister…or my mother…or my daughter?”  Would you want their friends and coworkers to read about them?

At the end of the day, I’m still a cop.  I will do everything in my power to protect these victims.

 

Today, I owe someone an apology, and I need your help to share this message…please share this on any social media platforms you can.

Most of you have read my Facebook post from last night on my disappointment with GTN News over a teaser headline. In the expression of my disappointment, I purposely did not name the reporter…because I was certain those were not her words, and I did not want her to take any blame. I was right. They weren’t her words, or thoughts on the subject.

But, by the way this world works… reporter Angie Angers got all of the blame from my friends, co-workers and others. I never made the connection that my words..while generic to the station would have caused her such grief. Angie’s story was completely pro-police and explained the situation as perfectly as possible. Sadly, she was not responsible for the teaser that I attacked.

Angie has been through a lot during this situation, mostly caused by my post. She did nothing wrong and my initial posting yesterday was not directing anger or disappointment with her personally. I urge you to watch her video package linked below that shows how well Angie reported on the story.

To summarize: Angie wasn’t responsible for the teaser. Her story is very well done. She even fought against the teaser…which is why it got deleted. Twice.

Angie – as I told you in person…I never thought my generic rant would end up causing you personal grief.  I’m terribly sorry that’s how it played out.

Cops see suicide scenes far too often.  As a road officer, I responded to my fair share.  As a PIO, I respond to more than I care to.

My job during critical incidents is to be a voice from the police department to the news media.  I don’t want to provide incorrect information, and third or fourth-hand information is not always 100% correct.  So, like most PIOs, I respond to each and every critical incident scene I can.  I view the evidence, take in the situation which allows me to provide the most accurate information to the media.

As a general rule, most media outlets self-censor when it comes to suicide.  Unless the person is high-profile or the suicide occurred in a public place, most reporters won’t touch it.  But still – I find myself at most of the scenes because I’m a proactive PIO.  I would rather spend all day being prepared than be under prepared at all.

Last Tuesday morning, January 6th, I was sitting in my office and heard a radio call dispatched.  A wife had found her husband committed suicide on the balcony of their apartment.  I listened to the call, read the notes and decided not to respond.  I am still very thankful for that decision.  Officers responded and handled the situation and I moved along to the next bit of work I was doing and didn’t think any more about the call.

A bit later, I heard one of our detectives check out over the radio at Zoe’s Kitchen for a notification on the above-mentioned suicide.  Almost at the same moment, my bud Matt came down the hallway to check on lunch plans.

“Zoes?” he asked.  “Hang on – I think I just heard 537 check out there for a notification” I replied.  “I’ll call her real quick” Matt said.

“She said it’s the manager” Matt told me with a sigh.  I look up the name in the call notes and pulled up an ID photo.

My heart sank.

If you never had the pleasure of meeting Jason Dach at Zoe’s Kitchen or anywhere for that matter, you missed out.  I usually eat there with a group of our detectives about twice a week.  You can find members of GPD’s Command Staff there frequently also.  Jason was a fixture there.  He would greet you with the biggest smile and literally would thank us for being cops and doing our jobs to keep everyone safe each time he saw us.

I’m the kind of guy that always cleans up for myself at a restaurant…but Jason would have NONE of that!  It became a game for me to try and get him distracted after I finished my (always delicious) meal so I could run and put my dishes away.  More often than not, Jason would play the game better than me…I would lose track of him and by the time I realized it – he was pulling my dishes out from under me.  I would say thanks, but he would always say “You serve me out there…it’s my turn to serve you while you’re here.”  Jason never knew what had happened in our days prior to seeing him.  Some of those days were horrible…but his constant smile and friendly exchange lifted our spirits and made us forget the call we had just worked.

I keep thinking…how did I miss the signs?  I’m a trained professional…how could a person that was so depressed put up such a front?  What could I have done to save his life?  Those questions will haunt me.  Jason obviously felt comfortable around us, and I just wish he had said something…given us just a glimpse of what was happening.  I know that work and personal lives are separate, but I just really wish Jason had let his guard down just for a split-second while we were in his presence.  I know that any of us would have dropped everything to talk with him.  He hid his pain well from the world.  Too well.

Suicide ended Jason’s life and his problems…but his loss now resonates with a lot of people.  I don’t think he knew how many people he touched through his work.  I don’t blame him and I don’t think it’s selfish or cowardly – I just wish it could have been prevented.

Suicide affects so many people.  If you know anyone that is dealing with serious depression or has suicidal thoughts, get them help immediately.  There are a wealth of resources available in our area:

The Alachua County Crisis Center:
http://www.alachuacounty.us/Depts/CSS/CrisisCenter/Pages/CrisisCenter.aspx
352-264-6789

National Suicide Hotline:
1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)

To Jason’s friends and family – I’m so deeply sorry for your loss.  I only got to experience his presence for a short time, and I’m envious that you had such a caring person in your family.

For Jason – I wish I had known.  RIP, my friend.

-BT719

In my chosen profession, I see it all.

I see the dark side of the world that we all wish didn’t exist.  I see evil that most people don’t even know exists.  There are sights, sounds and smells that I will never be able to carve from my brain.  I have paid my dues as a cop with blood, sweat and tears….lots of each.

The past two weeks have been filled with more death, destruction and pure evil than I can remember in recent years.  I never think about it during the moment…it usually hits me when I see my young son smiling when I return home each night.  I always look at him, smile, and selfishly wish that he never has to know the evils of this world.  There are many times I wish that I could look at the world through his innocent, pure, unjaded eyes.

But the evil isn’t going away…and neither are us cops.

For all of the evil – there is still plenty of good…if you know where to look.

The place I looked this year is the annual “Heroes and Helpers” event at Target.  It used to be called the more recognizable “Shop With A Cop” but the trademark attorneys stepped in and ruined the fun.   Last year was the first time I had the opportunity to participate, and ever since then, I have looked forward to the next one.  I could barely sleep the night before, and was so very excited this morning to be a part of it.  I honestly had trouble containing myself – because I knew what was going to happen, and knew it was my moment to capture memories.

Since becoming PIO I have tried on many different hats, and one that I’m truly enjoying wearing is the one of department photographer.  I realized that nobody took photos of us in action.  It was a perfect fit for me – I am just starting to become a “serious hobbyist photographer” and thus I hoodwinked GPD into purchasing a Canon 70D DSLR for me to use to capture photos and videos of my brothers and sisters in blue as they work.  I get to be a cop, and I also get to hone my hobby.  I pack a gun and a camera.  Please someone pinch me.

So I get to the restaurant and get ready to capture the day.  The basic premise is simple – certain kids are selected from area elementary schools based on merit and need.  They are picked up from their school by an officer in full uniform, they hop in the officer’s police car and then head to lunch.  After lunch they head to Target for their shopping spree.  The best part?  They come into the parking lot with lights and sirens.  39 police cars worth.  Each kid gets a $100 gift card and the shopping is on.

This year, just like last year lunch was provided by Beef O’ Brady’s.  They always enjoy giving back to the kids, and the smiles in the restaurant were infectious.  As I roamed the tables with my Canon 70D in hand, I tried to capture the smiles beaming from both the kids and the officers.  I found myself complaining that the light was too low…my ISO was cranked, and my shutter speed was so slow that I had to really think about the shots.  I ended up with a lot of blurry photos, and was kinda bummed.  But then I remembered that the day was just beginning…

The group finished eating (I stole some kids’ fries…but I got laughs, so it was worth it!) and it was time for a group picture.  By standing on the bumper of the GPD Command vehicle, I got the perfect vantage point…I really didn’t need to get on the roof like so many of my “friends” were suggesting.  I got the group shot, then it was time to head to Target to beat the group.  Let’s not forget that my media relations hat and my photographer hat were both on today.

I hop in my police car with Dana, my new (awesome) volunteer intern and Nick, our Police Beat producer/creative director/cameraman/etc… and we head down to Target.  Today I delegated video completely to Dana.  She honestly shoots better footage than me, and I know that’s her strong suit.  Plus – I wanted the stills.  I wanted to freeze the moments in time.  Dana has the awesome idea of putting our GoPro on the front of a shopping cart facing backwards.  We get to Target, meet up with local media and fly to get the GoPro ready.  I start mounting it to the front of the cart, then hit the power button…

Nothing.

It’s worse than that…it’s dead, Jim.  Zero battery.

I flag down the Target store manager, Brian and ask if they happen to sell batteries.  “No, Ben…I’m sorry” Brian slowly replies.

By this time, the group is arriving – and it’s time to start capturing memories.  So the GoPro ends up in a fellow officer’s car and I start blazing away with my Canon.  A funny thing happens when dozens of police cars come screaming into a heavily traveled shopping center.  Everyone stops and stares.  Thirty nine police cars roar into the parking lot.  Kids start getting out of the passenger seat and their smiles are unbelievable.  Everyone else continues to stare – then it sinks in.  They figure out what’s going on.  A tear here, a grin there – it’s happening.

So I head into the store and start taking pictures.  A few moments in and Brian runs up to me – GoPro battery in hand.  Problem solved!  (I would have paid much more than the retail price of $20 at that exact moment.)  The footage was worth every penny.  I get back to living this moment through the viewfinder of my Canon.  I didn’t realize it until the end, but I was shooting indoors at 400 ISO (quit cringing, photogs.)  Luckily I was somewhere between f2.8 and f6 so stuff ended up not too bad.  A couple hundred shots later and I realize what I’ve been trying to balance for many many years.  Capture the moment, but don’t miss it.

So the camera goes down.

I just walk around and watch the smiles.  My friends that I’ve worked with – truly tough men and women that I’ve literally fought alongside, cried with – men and women for which we would both give our lives for each other are grinning as much as I am.  The ones that have participated in the past knew this feeling and looked forward to it as much as I did.  The first timers – you couldn’t tell who was having more fun, them or the kids.  My smile was for many reasons.  I just stopped and breathed in the moment, savoring every emotion in a single deep breath.  Why?  Because I bought happiness that day.

The kids didn’t know it, and they didn’t need to – but one of those kids was spending my $100 donation.  As I walked around, I smiled, knowing that it might have bought that bike that the girl wanted so badly.  Maybe it bought the clothes for the boy’s  family.  For a child that doesn’t know money…$100 is a fortune.  I am blessed enough to be able to give – and I got much MUCH more than $100 worth.  Money CAN in fact buy happiness.

I know I’ll have to return to my “normal” activity of dealing with the world’s evil, but it’s moments like today that I put in the mental bank.  And it’s worth every single penny.

Even though I screwed up some settings…I still got hundreds of great photos, 71 of which are on GPD’s Facebook.  Please enjoy the smiles:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151776150642015.1073741846.136625737014&type=1

Demeatris Newell Jr. was more than excited to meet Chief Tony Jones!

Just one of the hundreds of smiles from the day.

 

I have been the Public Information Officer for the Gainesville Police Department for just shy of one year.  I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had to call a news director or executive editor after-hours on one hand in that year.  Saturday night  at 8:50 pm (not Sunday morning) was the first time I have ever had to make that call. It lasted two minutes and forty eight seconds.

“Steamed” would be a fair assessment of my feelings at the time.  Let me back up a bit to give you some context.

There are roughly 300 sworn officers plus support staff at GPD.  I was notified of “Operation Pegasus” on Wednesday, June 26th.  I was one of a very small handful that knew about the operation.  Friends that I work around every day didn’t know about the operation.  We try to be so incredibly careful about these types of investigations and the information is completely on a need-to-know basis.  We take a lot of precautions to protect the operation.  While I knew it was going on, I had no clue where or even who all was involved.

Why did I need to know?  Because I learned something in my time as PIO that a lot of cops don’t know…the second someone is booked into the jail it becomes a public record.  Their name, face and charges are out there…if you know where to look.

My media contacts know where to look, because the list of people booked into the jail are sent via email to them each day.  I also get those emails, and on Saturday morning I saw the inevitable – the first arrests in the operation.  Now I have a true dilemma…do I just let it ride and hope that I’ll get a phone call from reporters asking about the arrests?  That’s quite a risk for me – especially on the weekends.  While I may complain from time to time about “my” media contacts…they do generally respect my privacy and family time over the weekend which means I can’t just not say anything about these arrests.  I had to take a pre-emptive strike.

I send a “GPD Media Snapshot” every single day via email to my local media contacts.  It contains cases of note over the past 24 hours and also contains any information I need to relay for the day.  A few months ago, I began sending “Weekend Snapshots” to help out those media outlets that need weekend material – plus it gave me a chance to communicate 7 days a week with the local media.  Saturday’s snapshot carried a little different message.  See for yourself:

GPD Media Weekend Snapshot from June 29th.

GPD Media Weekend Snapshot from June 29th.

Slightly more than a footnote in my humble opinion…it was my pre-emptive strike.  Was it short and to the point?  Sure.  Was it a news embargo?  Absolutely not.  That requires a two-way dialogue.  I had certainly not requested an embargo with anyone up front.  Maybe that was my error in this whole thing…but in the year that I’ve been working with these same people daily I trusted that the request would be upheld.  I had no clue that there was evidently some “bad blood” that existed from a former operation that GPD was not the lead on and I certainly had nothing to do with.  I was not involved with Operation Tail Feather, GPD was not the lead agency, so I can’t say what disagreements existed between other law enforcement agencies and local media.

As a matter of record, this was the first undercover operation of this type since I have been PIO that GPD has completely led and that I was the lead PIO for.

A number of things concern me in the wake of this weekend.  First – I completely understand that the names, pictures and charges(s) are on the Internet…but you have to dig for it.  I had sent the above request and mentioned an “operation” in the hopes that my media contacts would understand what we were doing and let the investigation run its course.  Secondly, the last thing I thought was going to happen was my statement about GPD running an operation…which was obviously meant for reporters only…was used as a part of the article.  I can’t surmise that it was put in the article but for any other reason than to draw attention to an undercover operation.  If the decision was made to simply report the arrests, then do just that.  Don’t announce to the world that the arrests were part of an ongoing undercover investigation.

That is extremely troubling to me especially when the operation is designed to detect and capture the worst of the worst.  For example, one of the guys arrested this weekend was originally chatting with what he thought was a 14 year old girl.  He then noticed another one of our detectives that was posing as an 11 year old girl.  He completely quit the 14 year old chat and focused on the 11 year old for an extremely sexually-charged chat.  That’s the kind of person we were out to capture.  He’s the guy that is out trying to lure our children on the Internet for sex.  Luckily he was so focused on meeting an 11 year old girl for sex that he didn’t think about the consequences.  I can’t help but wonder how many other absolutely horrible perverts just like him are still out there.

Now I can’t say on record that the article was the sole reason for us losing some potential perverts…but our chats got strangely quiet around 8:30pm on Saturday night.

I’m not here to blast anyone, and I’m certainly not here to prove a point.  You’ll notice that I have not specifically named anyone…because I’m just not that kind of guy.  Some other members of the media are currently policing themselves and bringing to the public what happened over the weekend.  You should also know that I did not request any media coverage for the incident…I got a call Monday afternoon telling me that some local media outlets were running the story.

The statement is correct…we unfortunately can’t catch all the bad guys, even when things run smoothly.  Just give us the chance to eliminate as many variables that could go wrong as possible.

One half of the story was already out there, so I wanted to make sure that all of the facts were covered.  I encourage you to come to your own conclusions.

Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night and there I was minding my own business when out of nowhere…

I’ve just always wanted to use those lines to open a story.

But seriously…a blog?  Yes – and I suppose I have been postponing the inevitable for some time now.  As I do my job as a police spokesman I travel around to different incident scenes, constantly listen to my police radio in my ear, see and hear a lot of things that the public does not.  Most of society should be happy that these images, sounds and smells are filtered through my brain before it reaches your eyes on TV or in print.  This blog will give me a chance to share some of those peripheral thoughts with you…some of those things that don’t necessarily make it to TV or print.

Who knows – this may be the only post I make here,  or maybe it will be a regular thing.  I don’t know that yet, but after last week I realized that I needed a little better place to share my thoughts.  This is the same guy that years ago mocked MySpace when it was the “in” thing.  Now I’m that guy that tweets daily and has a blog…and I embrace it.

This has been quite the interesting week from the walls and computer screens of my office.  I’ve learned a lot this week…mainly about Twitter and how it is rapidly becoming my weapon of choice to interact with the community.  I’ve been using GPD’s Twitter since I became the PIO last July, but really only as a one-way notification system.  Who knew that a simple tweet by J-School Professor Ted Spiker (@ProfSpiker) could change that completely.  (I know he’s going to critique my writing…)

Let me share a secret with you.  There are three main groups of travelers in our fair city.  Vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.  They don’t always get along.  Each group has their expectations, but I can guarantee you that if you move from group to group your expectation will change.

If you were sleeping under a virtual rock this week, then you missed Prof. Spiker tweeting about receiving a ticket for crossing the street against a crosswalk signal. (http://storify.com/brucefloyd/jaywalking-enforcement-in-gainesville)

Granted – he was walking in the marked crosswalk…but against the light.  Maybe it was a one-time thing, or maybe it’s a daily thing – who knows.  His luck was against him that day because we were operating a special detail under the Gainesville High Visibility Pedestrian Enforcement Program.  It’s a grant-funded program made possible by FDOT.

If you remember early this year, we had 3 pedestrians struck and seriously injured while crossing SW 62nd Blvd.  Those incidents sparked a huge movement by GPD, the City Commission and Public Works to enhance safety in all city crosswalks, but specifically the one on 62nd.  Once the FDOT grant was secured, we began running details that exclusively targeted vehicle drivers that failed to yield to pedestrians.  It got a lot of local media coverage, and we even did a Police Beat episode on it.

The feedback from the program was mixed.  Pedestrians were overjoyed.  Drivers cited were pissed and wanted to shift the spotlight.  “Why don’t you cite the pedestrians too?  You know, the ones that cross against the lights or don’t use crosswalks?”  Well, we did.  And guess what – some of those pedestrians got pissed too.  “It’s not a big deal” they said.  “Why are you writing me a ticket for just crossing the street?”   Remember what I said earlier about the three different groups? And guess what?  Some of them wanted the spotlight pushed elsewhere again.  “Those Jimmy John’s bikers need to be cited.”  I forwarded that concern to our Traffic Safety Team and got a rapid response that they were in fact citing them also and our Traffic Sergeant would call JJ’s management to address the issue.

That’s when I realized something…GPD had just used Twitter to interact with a citizen who had a concern, which was quickly addressed.

Woah. 

It’s a completely different world now from when most of us grew up.  People are able to send a 140-character (yes, character) message to the police…and we’re gonna respond.

Is “Jaywalking” the crime of the century?  Certainly not.  Is it annoying to drivers?  Probably.  It’s probably just as annoying to pedestrians that vehicles don’t always yield to them in crosswalks.  Is it dangerous?  Sure.  Earlier this week we had a pedestrian killed as she crossed a busy Newberry Road outside of a crosswalk.  Is what Professor Spiker did the same as what the fatal victim did?  According to Florida statutes – yes.  In real life?  Probably not.  Did this Twitter exchange change the behavior of some other pedestrians that may have followed the exchange?  I hope so.

To Professor Spiker – I publicly thank you for being such a good sport during this exchange.   Your bad luck that day has helped GPD become more seated in the Twitterverse, and ultimately more accessible to the citizens of Gainesville.

It’s a new day, folks.  @GainesvillePD is full speed ahead on Twitter.  www.twitter.com/GainesvillePD