Columbia police log on to Facebook, Twitter

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents on Twitter could soon have their phones lighting up with "tweets" from the Columbia Police Department.

“Yes, that means I’m going to have to learn to work with Twitter,” said Columbia Police spokeswoman Jessie Haden at a news conference Monday when discussing the department's additions to its Web site. “I think we’re going to look at Facebook, also.”

Haden is the head of the newly implemented Public Information Office with the Columbia Police Department.

The office was put into place by Chief Kenneth Burton and is based loosely on Burton’s 16 years of experience with the public relations office in the Arlington, Texas, Police Department.

“One of the things that struck me when I first got here was the number of different people giving out press releases,” Burton said. “Consistency in information is what it is about.”

Improvement with communication among the media, the police and the community is also important, Haden said.

“Trust me when I say I expect an improvement,” Haden said. She went on to mention the necessity of the new public information office for dealing with current topics of interest to Columbia residents, such as Tasers and the Civilian Review Board.

“I think all of those things are big, important and things we need to continue to address,” she said.

Haden will begin training for the position on Thursday and Friday of this week in Independence.

Procedure will remain the same for the next three weeks as the command staff approves the policy for the office and the department undergoes internal training.

“We’ve got a lot to do, and we have a lot more coming,” Haden said.

Long-term goals for the department include using the office to provide “media packages” as well as possibly making the media book accessible online. They will also be looking for a second contact for the office when Haden is not available.

Haden said the immediate effects of the office aim to strengthen the relationship between the media and the Police Department, resulting in help to the community.

“I want us to have a mutually beneficial relationship,” she said.

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