- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Police officers in Iowa are finding ways to use social media tools to share information and connect better with the people they are trying to protect.

Iowa City police officer Ashten Hayes told the Iowa City Press-Citizen (https://icp-c.com/1LNUx57 ) that when she was speaking at an elementary school recently, she took extra time to take photos with the kids.

“They just wanted to have a selfie with me,” said Hayes, who posted the pictures on the department’s Facebook page.

Police in Iowa City, Coralville and at the University of Iowa post regularly on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Periscope.

University of Iowa police Community Outreach Officer Alton Poole said social media lets the department share serious information like photos of suspects. But the department also uses it for light-hearted posts teasing Iowa State’s police and highlighting good deeds by officers.

“We also understand you have to attract an audience, so if you just put dry material on there, no one is going to look at it,” Poole said.

Last week, Poole, Hayes and Coralville officer Juan Coleman used the Periscope app to broadcast their efforts to recruit teams from downtown bars to participate in an upcoming polar plunge to raise money for Special Olympics.

The Coralville Police Department gained notoriety online earlier this year when it made humorous posts about a goat that escaped from the university’s research park. Someone even launched a parody account for the goat on Twitter.

“We definitely had a lot of fun with it,” Coleman said.

The officers say they know their online accounts are connecting with people because they get replies and interaction. But when someone contacts police about a specific case or needing help, the departments usually respond privately.

“If it’s something really serious, we don’t want to put their business out there. We’ll contact them offline personally,” Poole said.

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, https://www.press-citizen.com/

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