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How does a police department, of a town with a little over 2,000 people, amass a global following of over 86,000 people? With a little bit of humor, a rivalry with the next door neighbor and dog pictures of course! At least that's what the Bath Township Police Department did to become global social media superstars!
"I started working here in 2015, myself and we had a Facebook page but it wasn't very active. We started it but didn't use it much. Some people have a certain view of law enforcement and sometimes it can be a negative view." Officer Trenton Bailey explained to us in a recent conversation. "We wanted to humanize ourselves a little bit and let people know that we are no different than anybody else. We've just got a certain job to do. We started making posts and having a little bit of fun with it and people reacted to it obviously they enjoyed it and it just kind of blew up to what it is now. It wasn't where we were focused on going viral or doing that whole thing, we were just trying to connect with our residents and our community and have a little fun while doing it. The fact that that it got bigger than we ever thought it would isn't a bad thing and all. Humanizing police officers to everyone is excellent. That reach we have to people and letting them know we are here to help people. We actually are here for the right purposes."
One of the lasting appeals for following the Bath Police online is their seemingly never ending back and forth with the most unlikely of groups - the East Lansing Police department. Often their foils for pranks, jokes and more. Nothing quite like poking the neighbors in a bit of friendly rivalry.
"We have a few friends in the East Lansing Police Department on a personal and professional level. One day we decided to play a prank on them - just messing around with them a little bit - and we posted it on Facebook and people just took to it in a way we never thought they would." Bailey said as he explained the origins of their back and forth with the East Lansing PD. "East Lansing obviously had to come back and play a little prank on us. It just kind of blossomed into what it is."
The Bath police department and officer Bailey in particular are sensitive to what they are posting. Yes it is in jest, but the banter is calculated and purposeful.
"One of our goals is this, a lot of police departments have Facebook pages and a lot of them are very successful. However if we get on there and we say "don't drink and drive" everyone knows it's bad but people don't respond to that. If you get on there and make jokes and have fun, and you also supply a message that you want to get across into that post, the fun is what gets people to read, share and talk about it but at the same time they're also reading a positive message in the post too, that wouldn't put out there, if just came out and said it…they need to drive. That's a big part of our goal and it has been from the beginning. "
You can find and follow the Bath Township Police department on face book: https://www.facebook.com/BathTownshipPolice/
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In this line of work you meet a lot of people, often tucked away in corners least expected. When out on a photo tour with a friend a few days back we were greeted by a stranger who was winter camping out by Rose Lake. Now, I’ve come to learn that anytime someone wants to stop and talk, you stop and listen. People have a lot on their minds these days and you never really know where a conversation is going to lead. The man surprised us when he emerged from his trailer, a larger man - not heavy but broad - slightly hunched from the accumulative toll of the years passing by. The man was alone, spoke loudly and clearly and struck up a conversation in the way that most Michiganders will.
I asked him about where he was from and why he chose to winter camp here at Rose Lake. He told me that he liked the solitude and the silence. He enjoys seeing all the wildlife and talking to people who stop by. He told us that he lived up north in the high part of the UP and that he’d lost his job due to covid and then lost his house. He then told us something that was definitive of the times we are living in when he said “I’d be damned if I ever let myself get homeless, so I packed up and here I am.”
The man had packed his travel trailer and was spending his time going from camp to camp, heading south until he could find work and start back up again. He wasn’t upset about it, he wasn’t angry, he was simply taking the time to find his new path in life. He was content, and in these times that’s remarkable.
He then looked out across the lake, stretched his arms out wide and told us “Besides how can you beat the view?”.
I looked at him and then I looked out across the water – both as still and as silent as the winter itself. Together in harmony and in peace.