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Portland police officer works to connect with community through Instagram account

Portland police officer David Baer works with the Central Bike Squad. He took over the Instagram account more than a year ago.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Trying to connect with the community through social media has been Portland police officer David Baer's mission for more than a year after taking over the Central Bike Squad's Instagram account. Baer patrols the Old Town neighborhood.

"A lot of the comments on our content are people that say 'I work in Old Town, live in Old Town, thanks for being out here,'" Baer said. 

Baer said another goal of the page is to give the public a detailed look into everything the police do.

"I know a lot of people are like 'what are the cops doing everyday?'" Baer said. "It's totally candid, our first person point of view on what we're seeing."

The Instagram account features everything from police finding guns in tents to the arrest of a stabbing suspect, and details the process of investigating a deadly accident involving a pedestrian. 

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"We've gotten a lot of great tips," Baer said. "I'm not going to go into detail on certain cases but it's been good for relationship building as well as showing legitimacy."

The original page was meant for bike theft tips, but Baer grew the account into what it is today. He was even recognized for his social media work, recently winning an achievement medal. 

"I guess people were happy with what I'm doing," Baer said. "The squad is going to continue to do this because it allows people to see what their police force is doing everyday."

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George Fox University Associate Professor of Communications Shannon Scott said social media can help change public perceptions of police, but it can also give people a way to comment and tell the police how they feel.

"If you're already seeking out information about the police and you're already in favor of them, then this will probably help you. If you're seeking out the police because you're not happy with what they're doing, then it will just be a place for those grievances," Scott said.  

Baer expects other police agencies to start using social media more. He said it even helps with recruiting new officers

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