WEST SENECA, NY — When you think of comedians, you probably don’t conjure up the image of a police officer, but more and more departments are using humor to help connect with audiences.
“We are part of this community. We’re not just monitoring him,” said West Seneca Police Department Lt. Jonathan Luterek. “We think it’s important to connect with them.”
Policing is serious business. Lieutenant Luterek should know. He has been with West Seneca PD for 11 years.
As of March 2020, however, there are a few more laughs floating around.
“People were a little depressed [because of the pandemic] and we thought we could try something a little different to see if we could brighten some spirits and selfishly wanted to get more followers,” explained West Seneca PD admin captain James Unger.
It began with a sentence: “Hello everyone except Carole Baskin.”
It was a hip little pop culture dig that caught on like wildfire.
The department then realized that this humor could bring more than smiles.
“When we put out a video, a statement, or a request for support, we just had a lot more eyes watching us,” Unger said.
Since that first post, their social media following has grown from 2,000 to 16,000 on Twitter and from 8,000 to 45,000 on Facebook.
People all over the world started reading and watching their posts.
“Alright guys, let’s listen. We won a game yesterday. We win one today, that’s two in a row. We win one tomorrow, it’s called a winning streak,” said an article about the car robberies referring to a video clip.
For the department, it is the local impact that counts more than opinions.
“Almost every day someone will mention how much they appreciate our social media presence,” Luterek said. “It definitely improved our relationship with the community we monitor and allowed for greater trust.”
Everyone at the station embraced this fun new side, adding jokes here and there.
“Our favorite item? It’s hard. It’s hard to pick just one,” Luterek said.
Sometimes they even become the joke themselves.
“When Officer Schnitzer washed his face, how far did he go? #Blinded by the light,” said a WSPD version of “Mean Tweets.”
“We’re just trying to show people that we’re here to do the right thing, to protect the community, and we’re just human like everyone else,” Luterek explained.
If you’re wondering who the comics are behind the posts, you won’t find the answer here.
“The mystique kind of took on a life of its own,” Unger joked. “Everyone is trying to guess who it is, so we let that roll.”
Of course, they understand that it’s not all a joke. It is, after all, a police department, not a comedy club, but where they can, a little humor here and there never hurts.
Captain Unger tells Spectrum News 1 that the posts don’t just help the community laugh.
They also help relieve some of the stress officers may face on a day-to-day basis.