Denver police: Don’t use Twitter as 911

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DENVER — Following the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Denver police are talking to FOX31 about the need for people to stop relying on social media to report suspicious activities to police.

After high-profile tragedies, it’s not uncommon for police to receive reports of social media users threatening violence, but the Denver Police Department says it’s important not to communicate those concerns via social media.

On Monday, a man named Chris tweeted screenshots at Denver police, alerting the department to a Facebook profile spewing hate and violence. The Facebook user referred to himself as a “genocide machine” and sought help raiding a police station.

“Whatever they sent to us, we can try to use that in the investigation, but we always want them to start contacting the communication center first,” said Jay Casillas, DPD spokesperson.

Police tweeted a response to the initial tweet with this message:

“Sir, we cannot at any time process tips sent to us via Twitter. To report this or any other criminal or suspicious activity in Denver, you can either call 720-913-2000, visit any district station or submit your tip online …”

DPD says people will report a variety of things to its official Twitter account, but the account is not monitored 24/7. Something that needs immediate attention requires a call or text to 911. But the way society communicates is always evolving, especially in the age of social media.

“People think of social media much like they think of a phone,” said Lynn Schofield Clark, chair of the University of Denver’s Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies.

Schofield Clark says people see Twitter as an avenue for being in touch with police.

“That is a concern because I think it means that those of us who are in public positions have a responsibility to monitor what’s happening on social media to a much greater extent than we do right now,” she said.

Experts wonder if social media use of the future will change police procedure. Could cities see police expand their social media teams to use sites like Twitter and Facebook as additional avenues into dispatch centers? For now, texting or calling 911 are still the best ways to get the fastest police response in Denver.

Police would not confirm or deny whether they are investigating the concerning post reported in this story.

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