Social media maven Janna Wood is 28 years old, a former Alpha Sigma Alpha-Zeta Beta sister at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Before she took over Shakopee Police’s Twitter account, her only experience was running the sorority’s. Turns out, the college girl touch was just what the department needed to remind people that they are just as human as everyone else.
Wood’s tweets are hilarious. On April 20 she sent a friendly invitation to area drug dealers to do their business in the department's lobby, and on New Year’s bade farewell to the dumpster fire that was 2016. But while Wood does the wordsmithing, the material comes from Shakopee’s officers, who are really goofballs all, she says.
“Honestly, the people that I work with, if they didn’t have a uniform on, you wouldn’t even know they’re cops,” Woods says. “They’re just like my normal friends who aren’t cops. They act the same, have the same hobbies.”
It took about a year for Shakopee Police to get cool on Twitter. But once people began following them, tips started coming in. Civilians started to help identify surveillance photos and watch out for missing people. They’re going out of their way to send notes of encouragement and fruit baskets.
Taking a risk and lightening up has paid off.
“They’re nervous to show the fun side of them because I think it’s just not how things were done,” Wood says. “For forever, we didn’t talk about stuff, everything was very secretive. Police were just in their own separate area, did what they wanted to do, didn’t share that information with the public, and as you saw, that created a huge mistrust between the public and the police department. Now I think police departments are starting to realize that they’re playing catch-up. They’re like, ‘We need to open that line of communication now.’”
These days, Shakopee Police, Wyoming Police, and the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office are carrying on a three-way Twitter bromance. Unlike Shakopee, the magic fingers behind Wyoming and Chisago County’s accounts are actual cops who tweet straight from the street.
Wyoming Police Chief Paul Hoppe won’t reveal their identities, but confirms they are millennials. They get into heated debates about donuts -- a.k.a. “crime-fighting power rings” -- and wish ill on the Packers. They also live-tweet arrests and host “Talking Tuesday,” when people ask them questions about everything from little-known traffic rules to complex algebra.
“We’re not Stormtroopers out here,” Hoppe says. “We’re actually just individuals that have individual personalities, and we wanna be able to show the real person behind the badge.”
Every new follower on Facebook is a new set of eyes on the street, he says. For example, a recent ice house thief was thwarted after Wyoming Police posted a photo on Twitter. Enough people shared it that a TV station broadcast a story. Within 20 minutes of the segment airing, somebody spotted it in a neighbor's yard.
And just as it's been good for civilians to talk with officers when they're not in the middle of crisis, it's been healthy for officers to get messages from folks who appreciate them, Hoppe says.
“It’s good for our people to see there is more support for them in the community than they might think.”