In a previous blog post, MPak looked at the number of ways police officers positively influence the communities they serve. Within the context of that post, you were introduced to Officer Tommy Norman. He deserves a post of his own, especially after what happened recently.
Officer Tommy Norman, The Social Media Cop
He knows the kids by name. He checks in on the elderly. He bridges relations between police officers and the community of North Little Rock. Officer Tommy Norman, known as the “social media cop”, has more than one million followers on Instagram and Facebook. He has used the platforms to introduce a nation to the people in his community.
There’s Lois, a 71-year old woman with some health concerns who thinks Officer Norman is her boyfriend; Mr. George, the soft-spoken 97-year old man with a dog always at his side; Amiyah, the 6-year old who performed in a lip sync battle with Officer Norman; the VIP club of pre-adolescent boys; and of course, Jessica, a homeless woman who was nine months pregnant and napping with her two-year old on the sidewalk when Officer Norman found them.
His social media followers have taken it upon themselves to send gifts to the North Little Rock community, addressing the packages to Officer Norman and asking him to deliver the goods to specific kids and families in need. More than anything, he’s reminded us all what it means to make a difference. In a recent Chamber of Commerce speech, Officer Norman stated it plainly:
“As a police officer, your badge should have a heartbeat, not an ego.”
Officer Norman’s efforts hit a bit of a speed bump recently when his department pointed out a social media policy they would begin enforcing. In short, the policy prohibits officers from posting video on social media while the officer is on duty if it is not approved by the department’s Media Relations Unit. Tommy, in plain clothes, explained the situation to followers by posting a video on Instagram.
The Role of Social Media in Police Relations
One could argue that many employers prefer workers stay off social media during work hours. On the other hand, one wonders why a pre-existing policy is suddenly being enforced when Officer Norman represents both the police department and the community with such positivity.
The entire situation begs the question: What is the role of social media in improving relations between officers and the communities they serve?
It is no secret that the public uses social media to influence opinion about how a handful of police officers have treated suspects in their custody. Viral smartphone videos have been presented as evidence in hearings that have both indicted and acquitted the officers involved. They have incited protests, debate, and suspicion, even among those who support law enforcement officials.
So why would the North Little Rock Police Department want to silence the voice of a police officer doing so much for people in the community? Why would they suddenly enforce an existing policy at a time when officers behaving honorably need to be seen, imitated, and recognized?
What do you think? Should NLRPD enforce the existing social media policy?