Tonight: Police Chief to Host ‘Virtual Ride-Along’

Here's how to participate as Chief Dennis Burns hosts a ‘virtual ride-along’ on Twitter.

Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns will put on his uniform tonight and hop into a squad car to host a ‘virtual ride-along’ via Twitter. The forward-thinking department believes that Burns may be the first chief in the nation to tweet his way through a shift.

The ‘virtual ride-along’ gets underway at 2 p.m. and will run for 12 hours.

Burns will take the wheel of the patrol car helping officers handle calls, patrol neighborhoods, and investigate crimes. A member of the department’s Public Information Officer team will ride with him and live-tweet calls for service, crimes in progress, arrests, vehicle accidents, and anything else that may come up.

PAPD’s Twitter account is @PaloAltoPolice.

“I’m looking forward to spending the night with my officers and with all of our Twitter followers across Palo Alto and beyond,” said Chief Burns. “My goal is to give everyone insight into the realities of policing in Palo Alto, and also to bring attention to our social media channels. In the event of a disaster or widespread critical incident, we want people to turn to our social media outlets for emergency information.”

The department used social media to update the public when torrential rains pushed creeks to the top of their banks in December.

The department held its first ‘virtual ride-along’ on Nov. 9 of last year. The department received hundreds of new followers. Since then, several other departments have followed-suit, most recently the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office last weekend.

PAPD’s Twitter account is @PaloAltoPolice. All tweets during the ‘virtual ride-along’ will include #PAPDvra. The department expects to send between 100 and 250 tweets during the twelve-hour ride-along.

The Palo Alto Police Department launched all of its social media platforms in March 2012. Since then, their Twitter account has gained more than 2,300 followers and Facebook has more than 1300 likes.

Chief Burns began his career as an officer with the Palo Alto Police Department in 1982. Since then, he has held every rank and has worked virtually every assignment within the Department. He became the interim Police Chief in December 2008, and was named the Police Chief in September 2009. He commands an agency with 161 personnel and an annual budget of over $30 million.

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