The Seattle Police Department is catching a ton of grief for transforming its Twitter feed from a selective news channel into an overactive police scanner — flooding its followers for 12 hours yesterday with tweets about 911 calls.

The goal was to raise awareness for next week’s “Night Out Against Crime,” explained police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb on the SPD Blotter blog.

“The Seattle Police Department handles hundreds of thousands of contacts every year.  What better way to bring awareness to them than to ‘tweet’ a sample of them during a 12 hour period?” he wrote. “The point of ‘tweeting’ police events is this: while crime fighting is the business of the police department, we can’t do it alone.”

The Seattle Times reports that the department lost hundreds of Twitter followers in the process.

Writes Linda Thomas of 97.3 KIRO-FM: “The Seattle social media community is a family. Today, the SPD was a noisy uncle at the dinner table who was only talking about himself – in incoherent sentences at that – and refusing to acknowledge that there are others in the room. Uncle SPD will eventually go home and maybe the next time we see him he’ll be in a more social mood.”

Fair enough. But even noisy uncles have a point sometimes. And some people actually liked what the department was doing.

I’ve followed SPD for a while and didn’t mind what it was doing yesterday. I’ll accept some temporary Twitter overload in the interest of an important cause. And given the department’s recent history, let’s consider it progress if this is the most objectionable thing SPD does for a while.

Comments

  • http://thesunbreak.com Michael van Baker

    It’s not the worst thing in the world, granted, but as someone who tries to scan my Twitter feed a few times a day for news, it was too much to slog through, I had to unfollow. I don’t know why they didn’t at least warn people in advance, so you could grit your teeth and bear it. Springing it on people doesn’t seem to have any justification.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed – I was super frustrated all morning and I didn’t learn the purpose until half way through the day when they had their news conference. Wouldn’t such a conference have been better before filling up everyone’s feeds? I too had to unfollow for the day (then refollow after 6pm), which I’m fairly certain completely defeated their purpose.

  • http://twitter.com/Vroo Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    What Twitter needs is a “mute” button to temporarily silence someone you’re listening to and a “throttle” feature to limit the number of tweets that appear in your feed from a single person.

  • Steve Body

    You don’t mind a little “temporary Twitter overload in the interest of an important cause”? What “important cause” was that? The Seattle PD once again trying to impress us all about how difficult their job is? Wah-wah-wah. I’m bleeding inside for these trigger-happy yahoos. Plenty of people have hard jobs. In general, if you don’t like your job and find it so profoundly difficult, you go seek other employment. You do NOT whine to everyone within earshot and try to win their sympathy. I don’t think, last time I looked, that the Seattle P.D. was drafting people. I believe everyone who works there joined voluntarily. So their incessant whining, frankly, strikes me as some sort of woe-is-me smokescren for their astoundingly shoddy record of lethal encounters with the public and their howling lapses in good judgment, NONE of which they’re willing to – pardon the pun – COP to. They’re dangerously close to having citizens groups take the matter of their self-policing to the legislature and have it taken out of their hands. If they worked as hard at doing a professional, dispassionate job as they do at trying to “PR” themselves out of their multitude of eff-ups, they might find a public that’s a LOT more sympathetic to their cause. As for now, they’re seen as a loose-cannon gang of unprincipled thugs. And NO smokescreen is big enough to cover that.

  • Steve Body

    You don’t mind a little “temporary Twitter overload in the interest of an important cause”? What “important cause” was that? The Seattle PD once again trying to impress us all about how difficult their job is? Wah-wah-wah. I’m bleeding inside for these trigger-happy yahoos. Plenty of people have hard jobs. In general, if you don’t like your job and find it so profoundly difficult, you go seek other employment. You do NOT whine to everyone within earshot and try to win their sympathy. I don’t think, last time I looked, that the Seattle P.D. was drafting people. I believe everyone who works there joined voluntarily. So their incessant whining, frankly, strikes me as some sort of woe-is-me smokescren for their astoundingly shoddy record of lethal encounters with the public and their howling lapses in good judgment, NONE of which they’re willing to – pardon the pun – COP to. They’re dangerously close to having citizens groups take the matter of their self-policing to the legislature and have it taken out of their hands. If they worked as hard at doing a professional, dispassionate job as they do at trying to “PR” themselves out of their multitude of eff-ups, they might find a public that’s a LOT more sympathetic to their cause. As for now, they’re seen as a loose-cannon gang of unprincipled thugs. And NO smokescreen is big enough to cover that.

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