APD Twitter account under fire during city council meeting

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of Albuquerque Police Department’s Twitter accounts came under fire during Monday night’s city council meeting, calling the department’s use of the account unprofessional – one councilor even compared it to being an internet troll.

Councilors say they have gotten complaints about the APD Public Information Officer Twitter account from constituents and other city leaders. But, so far those councilors say they have not seen any changes in behavior.

A lot of examples come from mid-March after APD released its 2022 crime stats report. After the report was published, many people on Twitter were critical of APD, and the PIO account seemed to take those tweets personally. 

For example, one Twitter user compared the crime rates of previous police chiefs to the current one and the PIO account replied, saying “Ask your client who is responsible for lower property crime– oh wait he probably isn’t aware.”

Another user tweeted a photo of broken windows at a Smith’s saying it was damaged by a shoplifter, and they don’t like Mayor Tim Keller or his policies. But the APD PIO account slid into the replies, saying: “Sounds like you are blaming police.”

Finally, another example was shown during the city council meeting Monday night: an outspoken business owner who is known for being critical of police and mayor called the crime report a joke, and says police response times worse than ever. The APD public information officer replies: “How is the crime in Tanoan?”

City council doesn’t feel any of those responses were appropriate. 

“We are all here to serve the citizens of Albuquerque, do you think that that response is good customer service?” said city councilor Renée Grout.

Grout started the conversation and made it clear how she feels about these replies and comments online.

“I think it is unacceptable, and I wouldn’t put up with it in my business, an employee that I had and so it needs to change,” said Grout.   

But she wasn’t the only councilor who has an issue with the PIO Twitter account.

“We are not going to pick a fight with people online on social media, we are not qanon trolls, but we are participating in it, we are elevating all of those people by responding to it, and it is beneath the dignity of you, of this department, and everything we are working on, and we have had this conversation,” said city councilor Pat Davis. 

Davis says this account has been an ongoing issue, and this isn’t the first time the council has brought it to APD’s attention.  

The city and APD have two separate social media policies, but there is a similar line in each, saying:

“Social media is intended to protect departments from content or speech that would impair its efficiency or community trust.”

Davis says replies like this are hurting the department and the city, and now is calling for real change.

“Will you commit this evening that this person will no longer be allowed to operate that account until they are retrained, or will you continue to allow this person to do so in violation of your policy that specifically says they must treat people with respect?” said Davis.

While APD and city officials said Monday night they will have a conversation with the person who runs the account.

On Tuesday, APD Police Chief Harold Medina said there isn’t an issue.

“Right now there is no plans to discipline Gilbert. Me and Gilbert have talked about what works, what doesn’t work, what works really well, and we are committed to continuing to approve,” said Medina. 

But Davis is adamant that changes need to be made – one way or another.

“Let me make this clear, I will work personally to defund that position, defund that account and prohibit the city from using Twitter in that way if we cannot solve this problem,” Davis said. 

Medina also added Tuesday the strategies his department have found to be the most effective when dealing with internet trolls is to point out facts, numbers, and statistics.

But the replies that concern city council are not the ones that point to the stats.