Every year, thousands of firefighters from all over the world gather at a convention in Indianapolis. This includes Bath Fire Chief Dave Snider, who said that lately he’s been approached by people there familiar with Bath. This recognition is not from the fire department, however, but rather from the Bath Township Police Department Facebook page.
This recognition of Bath’s police is not just across the emergency services- the Facebook page has over 78,000 people following it. This number is even more impressive compared to the population of Bath, reported as 12,589 in 2016.
The page is focused on community relations between the police and the community, using jokes and hashtags to achieve to keep the community informed of new developments in the area. One recent post advertises an opening in police dispatch as an opportunity to “boss a bunch of cops around” and interrupt their lunches.
“Our police department does an excellent job with that and I praise them all day long,” Snider said. “They have an image that they’re trying to always fight and the Facebook page shows that they’re human too.”
Snider, 61, said that unlike firefighters, whose presence normally comes as a “sight for sore eyes” on someone’s worst day, people can have bad encounters with officers that change their perception of police as a whole.
This is what Bath resident Kari Swincicki, 37, said she enjoys about the page as well. She said it really shows that they aren’t people you need to be afraid of.
“I like that they make light of certain situations, or kind of make fun of themselves,” Swincicki said. “They make it seem like they’re a really fun group of people.”
The page, which began in 2015, is run by three officers who saw the value in social media for their community. One of them, Officer Avery Lyon, said that the posts have received a lot of positive reactions.
Lyon, 27, said that officers are sometimes stopped in restaurants and gas stations by people complimenting a certain post. He even received a compliment from someone during a traffic stop.
“It’s definitely rewarding knowing that we’ve created a Facebook page that has a great relationship with the public and we can have fun with it,” Lyon said. “This kind of gives people an avenue to know we’re just normal guys who post funny memes and they can come chat with us if they want to”
The Facebook page is more than just a way to humanize the department; it also has become an important tool for the department. For example, when there was a bank robbery the police spread information on the local news and didn’t receive any information. Within minutes of posting the information on Facebook they got a tip and were able to find the people responsible.
Lyon said the page has also helped the department in looking for missing or endangered people. He said these posts inspire the public to go out and help look, especially in cases involving the elderly or those suffering from mental illness that have run away.
“I think at first some of our officers were skeptical of social media,” Lt. Gary Smith said. “But I think after doing it we saw the benefits for both us and the community.”