EPS poet promotes positive proactive policing

The discovery of a Twitter poet at the Edmonton Police Service opens a fascinating window into the way police can engage with the community in these modern times.

Recently tweets include this ode to home security:

“Cold temps got you down, heading out of town? Take proactive steps to ensure your return doesn’t leave you with a frown! Relocate hidden keys inside until your return. Have a friend or neighbor sweep the snow off your vehicles, porch, don’t post your plans online. Adios.”

Here’s another along the same lines – referring to a hashtag campaign adopted from a Florida county sheriff’s department:

“The #9PMRoutine will be there for you,

“When the rain starts to pour.

“The #9PMroutine will be there for you,

“Like it’s been there before.

“The #9PMRoutine will be there for you,

“Cause you’re completing it, too.

“Be a f-r-i-e-n-d and lock up your property before you go to bed.”

One more: “I’m doing this tonight. I’m going to keep my valuables out of sight. I know the #9PMRoutine is right. Hey, #yeg come on! I love safety endlessly. It’s crime prevention to help me. Now it’s time to for thieves to leave me alone. I want to see you lock that door. Thieves go bye bye bye.”

OK, so it’s not Walt Whitman.

“That’s ‘NSync,” says EPS webmaster Landis Kine Donahue, and laughs, “I guess that shows my age.”

The 29-year author of the #9PMRoutine poesy says she often uses song lyrics to promote the message of “proactive policing.” She also came up with a much-loved EPS tweet on Jan. 11 – a slippery day in which 191 accidents were reported – urging drivers to be careful out there: “#yeg is not a level in Mario Kart,” and a Game of Thrones reference in the wake of an increase in area property crime: “Even Hodor knows how important it is to lock your door.”

Getting creative “is nice break from the seriousness,” Kine Donahue says, “From the crime files. It breaks up your day into something positive and catchy.”

#yeg is not a level in Mario Kart

She says she isn’t sure what sparked her poetic muse, “But I love music, and it just started with the 9PM routine. I started with ‘Roses are red,’ then I did one to Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time, and people actually really liked it. It’s definitely a gamble whether or not people will know which song it is, or if they like that kind of messaging from the police service. Maybe people will like this, maybe not – but it’s been so well received. I’ve been trying to find more songs I’ve been trying to re-work.”

Within such strict literary constraints – subject matter must about proactive policing and crime prevention in Edmonton, must be respectful to all citizens, rhyming an asset, and no more than 280 characters – art has emerged. Asked if she would try original poetry, she says, “But what if people don’t like it?”

The EPS started using social media in 2009, initially as a tool for recruitment to reach the young people, which worked well, and it has since evolved into a lot more. Part of Kine Donahue’s job is training the squad of “Twitter officers,” who are encouraged to show their personalities and engage with citizens. There are more than 20 twitter officers on the force at the moment, including a top inspector and several sergeants. They come to their webmaster with an interest in public engagement – and it’s Kine Donahue (a civilian employee for the last five years) who helps them out.

Even Hodor knows how important it is to lock your door

“It’s been a fantastic program,” she says. “We’ve seen so much positive engagement. The people get to see what it’s really like to be a police officer, day in and day out, to humanize these people they would never meet – at least not in a positive situation. It’s more than just the person who gave me a ticket. It’s about what it’s like to be human doing this job. People forget that.”

Of course they have to be careful. The majority of EPS social media postings deal with things like crime and dangerous offender warnings. Serious business. People’s lives are at stake. A careless tweet might cause harm.

So Kine Donahue drills a simple rule into her social media recruits: “The big message is to remember that everyone in Edmonton is going to be watching you. The media is going to be watching you. Whatever you send out, pretend that that will be a headline. Are you comfortable with that? Or saying it to your grandma?”

Asked whether Twitter’s recent expansion from 140 to 280 characters has improved communication or made it twice as stupid, she replies, “It does help when it comes to song lyrics or poems, or messages about Mario Kart levels, but I do see the negative side of expanding it. There was this sweetness about the old Twitter, short and sweet. If you’re not into distilled prose, maybe Twitter isn’t for you. I think that’s what people liked. You keep it simple: Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ve done our #9PMRoutine, what about you?”

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