ALBANY -- What's the difference between a detective and a lieutenant? What does a parking enforcement officer do? How are calls dispatched in Albany?
Can somebody answer these questions? Can they answer them in 140 characters or less? We're about to find out. The Albany Police Department will hold a live "Tweetcast" from 2 p.m. to midnight April 23.
It's an opportunity for those following the department, whether residents or people living elsewhere, to learn about what happens on a "normal" day in Albany.
People will be able to follow along, whether they have a Twitter account or not, by going online to www.twitter.com/AlbanyCAPolice.
According to community engagement specialist Karina Tindol, the intention is also to grow the department's Twitter following (@AlbanyCAPolice).
"We're a small department, so we don't tweet every incident (on a daily basis)," Tindol said. "A secondary role is to grow our Twitter audience so in a disaster we can reach more people than from traditional media."
Tindol, who isn't a sworn officer, will be doing the tweeting. She'll be riding along with officers (a "Tweet-along"), going out when an officer is dispatched.
"When it's slower I have some preset tweets about roles and responsibilities. Like (duties of) lieutenants and detectives, so people can get a sense of what we do in the department," Tindol said.
Government agencies are discovering social media as a means of communicating with the public and Tindol said the Albany department currently has 326 followers on Twitter and 404 "Likes" on its Facebook page.
"It's an interesting tool to use to get information in a condensed format to find out what they're thinking," she said. "The Brits are really into tweeting."
Because Tindol has many responsibilities (she also does outreach for the fire department) social media updates are normally dependent upon whether she is working. This is a chance to focus on Twitter for 10 hours.
She said the idea came up at a quarterly meeting she attended of the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group.
"Fremont and Redwood City are really big into social media and I believe they've both done this and its been very well received by the public," she said.
Would a person following the department on Twitter be able to find out when the parking enforcement officer is on the block and be able to run out and feed the meter? Probably not, according to Tindol.
"We probably won't tweet exact locations," she said, laughing. "It will be interesting to see how it unfolds."