The communication power and the changes that social media have brought were on display in Dublin recently when rapper MC Hammer was arrested by Dublin Police at the Hacienda Crossings Shopping Center.
Hammer tweeted out his version of the incident to his followers after his arrest and before the police had publically spoken about the issue.
Hammer’s version via Twitter included an officer (described as a “chubby elvis looking dude”)
asking him if he was on probation or parole. According to Hammer, the officer ended up drawing a gun and trying to pull him from the car. Another tweet two days after the incident said “the only thing more dangerous than a scared man with a gun with a scared man with an agenda, a gun and a badge.”
The Dublin police version, released two days after the series of tweets and four days after the arrest, said that Hammer was driving a vehicle with an expired registration and it was not registered to him. The police also said that the rapper was uncooperative, refused to answer questions about the vehicle and was playing very loud music. A spokesman also said the officer did not draw his weapon.
Hammer, whose birth name is Stanley Kirk Burrell, was born in Oakland and lives in Tracy.
His last tweet said he was not bitter and this was a “teachable moment” for him and his colleagues.
The notable change because of social media is how effectively Hammer got his side of the story out to his followers on Twitter and then through them to the media and the general public. Given his celebrity status, he probably could have called a press conference and drawn some of the media, but Twitter gave him instant access to folks who care enough to follow him.
That’s a new dynamic for law enforcement and other public agencies that typically are used to controlling information flow from incidents of this type. Hammer’s version was out for more than 24 hours via Twitter before the police responded.
No judgment from this corner of who has the straight story—that’s for a judge and/or jury—but law enforcement folks are going to have to consider moving much more quickly when dealing with folks with lots of Twitter followers. Someone with a circle of friends on Facebook also has the ability to spread the word.
One of the Bay Area television stations featured a South Bay police department doing a virtual ride-along recently with two officers tweeting from their rounds on the night shift.