Annapolis Police Department spokeswoman Detective Amy Miguez knows residents like to take ride-alongs with officers.

"I think there's a lot of interest in that," she said. "[Ride-alongs] are always a way for someone to really gain an understanding of what we do. Not only going on the calls with the officer, but then just interacting with the officer and asking all the questions you wanted to ask."


So when the department had a chance to take part in the first Global Police Tweet-a-Thon this month, Miguez saw it as a virtual ride-along.

"We can't have 10,000 people doing ride-alongs," she said. "But on Twitter, it's a way for them to get a little slice of it easily."

The Annapolis Police Department was one of more than 230 law enforcement organizations around the world participating in the March 22 Tweet-a-Thon, and one of four in Maryland, along with the Baltimore, Salisbury and Prince George's County police departments.

They all began tweeting bright and early, using the hashtag #poltwt to mark the event.

Originally designed to highlight the use of social media by law enforcement, the 24-hour tweet-a-thon became a top-10 trending topic in the United States, according to data tallied by Web intelligence company BrightPlanet.

"The overwhelming positive response is just the best thing," said event organizer Lauri Stevens, an interactive media consultant and founder of LAwS Communications.

Stevens said the idea of organizing a tweet-a-thon came to her a little more than year ago, after witnessing the way other agencies used Twitter to connect to the public and their fellow law enforcement officials. She developed a model and used a social media group on the networking site LinkedIn to share her idea with police around the world. Each department then tailored the plan to fit its needs.

Miguez said that with more than 2,200 followers on Twitter, including some gained during the course of the event, Annapolis had a wide audience for sharing facts about the patrol officer participating in the event, Officer Kevin Freeman, a 13-year veteran of the department.

"I had people guess Officer Freeman's nickname," she said. " 'Dapper,' someone responded, or 'I say Steve Urkel' … but it's actually 'Jamie Foxx.' "

Miguez said these lighthearted types of tweets serve a significant purpose: helping residents see police in a different light.

"I think some people just see the uniform when they see a police officer," she said. "I mean, we have an officer from Nigeria originally. We have officers that have lived all over the country. We have a lot with prior military experience who have served their country in many different ways. But people might just see the badge, the uniform, have an opinion about us, but not realize we do have our own backgrounds and that kind of thing."

Stevens, the media consultant, said her initial goal for the tweet-a-thon was to foster a connection between the public and police officers, but some Twitter users felt officers missed that opportunity, choosing to use the medium for attention rather than enrichment.

"Colossal fail for #poltwt! Instead of talking to each other or public, officers took opportunity to act-out in their own 'COPS' episodes!" wrote a tweeter at Anon GovernmentWatch.

In all, more than 15,600 Twitter users tweeted with the hashtag, sharing information in 23 languages.