boston police twitter bird illustration Credit: Metro illustration

Twitter has become an increasingly useful tool in the utility belt of law enforcement and few have used it more effectively than the Boston Police Department, as was seen during last year's Marathon bombings.

But at a time when more departments are joining the online conversation and more of the nation's top cops are taking to Twitter on their own, Boston's police commissioner is missing an online presence.

Unlike his predecessor Ed Davis and his counterpart in New York City, Police Commissioner William Evans does not have a Twitter profile.


New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton last month began posting messages from @CommissBratton and called it "the start of a beautiful relationship."

Davis, who began using TweetDeck in 2010, said Twitter users were "another community that we need to stay in touch with."

Under Davis, the department also encouraged its command staff to have their own Twitter profiles and to "tweet from the beat." The department's Twitter account has more than 266,000 followers and is one of the most followed law enforcement accounts in the world. Multiple members of the command staff have Twitter accounts and even police dog Bushido has its own account with thousands of followers.

It's that sort of engagement that resonates and builds trust with citizens, said Lauri Stevens, a Boston-area social media strategist for law enforcement agencies.

"Social media is about building relationships, so … when you're the chief and you're out there, you're showing you support the effort when you send messages. The citizens really take it to heart and appreciate the fact that they're getting the message from the chief or any real officer as opposed to an official police account," Stevens said. "It's always good to see real people."

A department spokesman said that Evans is considering joining the Twitter ranks in the future and is committed to the continued use of social media by the department and officers.

"[Evans] supports and encourages the use of social media by his command staff," said Sgt. Michael McCarthy, a department spokesman. "He sees the use of social media as an important tool in getting information out in a timely manner and to a much broader audience. As was witnessed during the marathon bombings, communication is key. The use of social media is and continues to be a valuable method of communication and information sharing that is in line with the commissioner's community policing efforts."

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.

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