Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Oxford Police Host Virtual Ride-Along Thursday

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Ever wanted to know what the average night of an Oxford police officer is like? Now’s your chance — from the comfort of home.

Oxford Police Department will host a virtual ride-along Thursday night through their Twitter account @OxfordPolice to show the community how they spend their time and open a dialogue with residents.

Last fall, Lieutenant Hildon Sessums began trying to revamp the department’s social media approach, hoping to use Facebook and Twitter as a tool to work with the community and interact with a larger group of citizens. It began with simple updates after football games of parking lot and traffic conditions, and the community responded in droves, offering their own updates from around town and communicating with officers they’d probably never met through social media. Since then, both pages have gained thousands of followers.

“We’ve noticed since we’ve kicked off our social media that the community has responded to us and they’ve talked back,” Major Jeff McCutchen said. “We’ve learned if we’ll talk to them, they’ll talk back. Anything from tips, updates on traffic conditions — it’s just a conversation like you and I would have.”

The idea for the virtual ride-along was taken from other active departments around the country to help improve the transparency between the department and the community, which has been a major focus for Chief Joey East for a while. Sessums will help facilitate the tweets from the 8 or so officers patrolling the town Thursday night, giving certain information about incoming calls for assistance and photos from the happenings of the evening.

“We want to show them a personal side of us, that we’re not just cops,” McCutchen said. “We are part of your community, we see and hear the same things you guys do, and we are a branch of Oxford, we just happen to be part of the law enforcement side. This is our home.

“I think if they understand a little more of what we do and we understand how every other citizen sees it, we can do our job better and the lines of communication can open up.”

Though most people use Facebook and Twitter to unwind after a day at work or to stay up-to-date on your favorite sports teams and celebrities, the Oxford Police Department is striving to use the platforms to interact with the community and expand their reach and mission to all Oxonians.

“With all of us working together on this, it makes us so much more efficient because we have eight officers that are assigned to a shift, and they can only cover so much of the city. But with citizens working together and social media as easy as it is, that’s so many eyes,” McCutchen said. “That’s witnesses out there, that’s people who can give you road updates and traffic updates. It makes all of us do our job that much better when we’re working like that, and social media seems to be the easiest way to do it.”

Amelia Camurati is editor of HottyToddy.com and can be reached at amelia.camurati@hottytoddy.com.

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