August Rudisell is not a police officer. In fact, his two day jobs have nothing to do with law enforcement anymore. However, even while he is on the clock at either the nonprofit organization or retail company he works for, he always has one earphone in.
After working as a dispatch officer for several years, Rudisell decided to help law enforcement in other ways. Now, he is an administrator on the Lawrence KS Community and Police Scanner Twitter page, @KsScanner, where he live-tweets everything said on Lawrence’s police scanner.
“I use bluetooth headphones that transmit the scanner to my ear," Rudisell said. "From about 15 to 18 hours a day, I’m listening into my ear to the scanner. It’s a huge commitment.”
Rudisell tweets out everything he hears, from a child out of control to a shooting. He gives as much detail as he can, including the location of each incident and whether a threat is imminent.
“If, you know, there's seven cop cars at your neighbor's house, and you want to know if there's a danger to you right now, you can't wait for a media release to come out,” Rudisell said. "I think that's why a lot of people go to the page right away, as soon as they hear sirens. [It's] to see if there's a danger to them, or they need to lock the doors or whatever.”
Rudisell has spent years as an administrator on the Twitter page and has seen others come and go; there used to be four administrators who took shifts listening to the scanner.
But now it’s just Rudisell.
“When we're staffed better, we can alternate coverage so that we have someone listen overnight and capture the calls," Rudisell said. "Obviously on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, I try and stay up until at least 2 a.m. and capture those calls because that’s when a lot of the high-priority calls [come in]. But once the bars close, typically I need to go to bed.”
Though he is currently the only administrator, he does not work alone. Rudisell retweets important information from other online entities, such as different media outlets, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Lawrence Police Department.
Patrick Compton, a spokesperson for the Lawrence Police Department, said he appreciates Rudisell’s efforts to keep the community informed.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to get your message out to more people, then it's a win,” Compton said.
However, Compton also warns against trusting information on social media that does not come directly from the police department.
“The point that we would try to get across is, if you see it on our Twitter or Facebook page, then undoubtedly, it's not a rumor," Compton said. "It's based in fact. It's coming straight from the mouth of the police department."
The Lawrence Police Department is no stranger to using social media as a way to improve community outreach. After going viral on Twitter, the department’s page has over 153,000 followers. Compton said they utilize this Twitter fame to educate and inform the Lawrence community.
“We’ve … been fortunate enough to build that audience through humor and levity and then use that same audience to provide education and information to the public,” Compton said. “It’s a fantastic outlet for us.”
For both Compton and Rudisell, timeliness is of the utmost importance when using social media.
“Lots of times, we can get to [the public] faster than through the news media just by using our social media,” Compton said.
Compton also hopes the department’s Twitter page has changed the way people view police officers.
"They're people, and they laugh just like everybody else," Compton said. "And they have a job just like everybody else, and I think that we've been able to use that Twitter feed to kind of highlight that."
For Rudisell’s Twitter page, however, there is no element of humanization. But the little recognition he receives doesn’t bother him.
“We get messages from citizens pretty regularly saying ‘Thank you for what you do. You know, getting that information in real time is something that allows us to feel safe,'” Rudisell said. “And to feel that we are what the LPD considers a contribution and not a hindrance to their work is a really great feeling.”