Police and emergency services trying to be funny – the joke could be on them

Authorities are using humour on social media to help spread important, and not so important messages.

Authorities are using humour on social media to help spread important, and not so important messages. Photo: Facebook/NSW Police

Enjoy memes and dad jokes? How about adorable puppies? If so, the police might be your newest and most unlikely source of entertainment.

Police and emergency services worldwide are turning their hands to humour and quirky status updates in a bid to expand their social media outreach.

However, according to experts the “inappropriate” use of Facebook and Twitter posts could also undermine their authority.

In previous years, the trend has been seen across police departments in the United States and the UK, sharing light-hearted jokes and cute content that often goes viral, in addition to important, factual updates.

Now, Australian police forces are adopting the tactic, posting viral memes with a police-themed spin to earn thousands of likes, comments and shares.

And none have done it better than “the meme team” from the New South Wales Police Force – which has been widely considered the funniest civil servants in the world.

NSW Police digital media officer Daniel Sheehy told The New Daily the social media strategy was implemented to reduce crime and improve public opinion of police.

“Our posts are designed to create engagement between the community and the Police Force, which helps our followers to see more of our communication and at the same time generate a broader audience for police messaging,” Mr Sheehy said.

“We have surveyed our followers several times and they definitely want to see as much of our content as we can provide, so the meme strategy is our method of achieving that.”

And according to Mr Sheehy the department’s strategy has been a success since its implementation in 2016.

“Facebook’s own Insights show that we are consistently the most engaging policing page in the world. Independent research by agency Online Circle Digital ranked us the most engaging Facebook page among Australian government agencies, and we are also one of the most ‘liked’ government Facebook pages in Australia,” he said.

“We know that from regular surveys of our audience that the NSWPF Facebook page has a very positive influence on how people view police, 81 per cent agreed to strongly agreed that communicating (with the NSWPF) via Facebook made them feel more positive towards police.”

‘There’s inappropriate times for internet humour’

Curtin University associate professor of internet studies Tama Leaver told The New Daily the balance between humour and factuality is a slippery slope for police departments.

It comes after New Zealand Police was forced to apologise last week following a tweet of a Steve Carrell meme about informing family members of road fatalities.

Steve Carrell police NZ

NZ police swiftly deleted a tweet with an insensitive Steve Carrell meme after a weekend of road crashes that killed nine people. Photo: Twitter

“The more significant body or service you represent the more careful you have to be with that humour, it must be very, very difficult to get that line right every day,” Associate Professor Leaver said.

“I suspect strongly that any circumstance where you are talking about breaking the news of someone’s death to their family, that’s not something I think is the appropriate time to be sharing a meme or an animated gif or a joke about it.”

However, if done correctly he said it could be extremely beneficial for both police forces and the public.

“I do think in general social media, and social media with a sense of humour, for the police forces has actually made the police seem more human, more approachable, more as if they are part of the conversation online not just sharing factual information,” he said.

“I think that carefully chosen humour can actually be a good thing.

“If the police are retweeted and shared because of something that they’ve said is funny, in a good way, then actually I think that’s a bit of a win.”

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