Police Officer Walks the Beat & Writes the Tweets

Steve Koopman

Some police officers fight crime by patrolling the streets. Constable Steven Koopman, Artsci’98, patrolled the World Wide Web.

The Queen’s alumnus spent five years as the Kingston Police Media Relations Officer and became well known as the man behind the service’s popular social media accounts. The Kingston Police force currently has 40,000 Twitter followers and more than 25,000 likes on its Facebook page

Cst. Koopman, who recently left media relations to return to patrolling the streets, is this year’s co-recipient of the Jim Bennett Award from the Kingston Branch of the Queen’s University Alumni Association. He is being honoured along with Cristiano Vilela, Artsci’04, (who runs the popular Make it Home YGK traffic social media accounts) for their service and innovative collaboration through social media to keep Kingston safe.

“I am honoured to share it with Cris. We both have the same goals, to make Kingston a better and safer place to work and live in,” he says.

Cst. Koopman first saw the power of social media when he was working as a detective in the Major Crimes Unit. In 2008, he used social media to share a video of a suspect and the accused quickly turned himself in.

“Two or three days afterwards, we received Crime Stopper tips from people outside of Kingston identifying the person. We think social media played a big part in getting that video out to the public beyond Kingston,” says Cst. Koopman.

He slowly added social media to his workload. Kingston Police superiors eventually thought Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were so important that it should become a significant portion of the media relations officer’s job.

“What I didn’t think I would do – which ultimately occurred – was apply for the job in media relations. I don’t believe any officers get hired hoping and dreaming of being in media relations. However, saying that, I thought there was real value and we can build some strong ties with the community at a nominal cost,” he said.

He started pushing out social media content that wasn’t solely related to finding leads for investigations. Social media became a good platform to inform the community about police news (such as arrests) and crime prevention tips. He credits his superiors for letting a constable be the voice of the organization and allowing him to get away from boring “corporate speak.”

One of his Kingston Police tweets – about an intoxicated “Grinch” who was arrested at the Kingston Santa Claus parade for telling kids Santa did not exist – caught the attention of comedian Stephen Colbert and became the subject of a segment on The Colbert Report in 2012.

Seeing a tweet go viral may be fun, but Cst. Koopman says his career highlights are more about the times he has helped people in difficult situations.

His highest-profile case was the 2009 Shafia family honour killing investigation that made international headlines. But what he remembers the most is helping out some of society’s most vulnerable people – people who were the victims of child abuse or domestic/sexual assault.

“The fact that they had trust in me and my unit to come to us for help is humbling.”

The Padre Laverty Dinner takes place on June 1 in Kingston. Online registration is now open.