When Kansas Highway Patrol’s Trooper Ben Gardner first started tweeting in 2014, he did so with the hopes of connecting to the people he serves.
But he had no idea that in just three years he would have more than 30,000 followers from Kansas, the nation and even from around the world.
“It has allowed me to connect with people in our state and well beyond – all around the world – and showcase Kansas Highway Patrol in ways that people never saw,” he said. “It allows me to push out public safety information instantly and humanize this uniform and badge that I love.”
In just three years of humanizing the badge, Gardner has been named one of three Twitter accounts for the Best International Account with the Police Twitter Awards, based out of the United Kingdom. This is the first year the awards contest has opened up a division for accounts around the world.
“This validates the things that I think of in social media and law enforcement – how the public craves interaction with officers in other ways outside of face to face,” Gardner said. “They want to see us outside of our normal activities and showcasing what it means to be an officer and the great difficulties and also great benefits we have – in how we can walk into an elementary school and see kids who treat us like a superhero and look at us in awe.”
The awards contest aims to recognize the best of police tweeting accounts, as determined by the public. The panel who chose the three finalists for Best International Account considered specific feedback about each account, Twitter analytic data, the number of nominations received and the account’s value to the public.
Gardner said he may have been nominated by hundreds of followers from around the world, but he thinks one certain nomination held a lot of weight.
“One of the things I think that really allowed me to step forward was a small child in the UK, Alex Goodwin, who was in Kansas City for cancer treatment this year,” he said. “I had been following Alex for a long time, and I had made some video messages to him hoping he could get better in his battle with cancer.”
When Alex came to the Midwest for treatment, Gardner had the chance to meet him, and they have stayed connected ever since. Goodwin’s dad is a police officer in the UK.
Meeting with Alex is just one of the many high points Gardner said he has had experienced through his job that he now gets to show the world through Twitter.
“Showcasing on Twitter is why I have as many followers I do – it’s the highs and lows I show all day, how much I love this uniform and how much I fear the day I retire from this uniform,” Gardner said.
The winners of the awards will be named on Nov. 24 in the UK. Gardener said he will try to Skype in to be virtually present.