News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Chief Dennis Burns to Host “Virtual Ride-Along” on Twitter Friday Night
Contact : Zach Perron, Lieutenant, Police    650-329-2413
Palo Alto, CA -- In what may be a first among the nation's police chiefs, Chief Dennis Burns of the Palo Alto Police Department will be hitting the beat this Friday night in his very own "virtual ride-along" via Twitter.

Starting at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 15, 2013, and running for 12 hours, Chief Burns will don a uniform and get behind the wheel of a patrol car to help his officers handle calls, patrol neighborhoods, and investigate crimes.  A member of our Public Information Officer team will be riding with him and live-tweeting calls for service, crimes in progress, arrests, vehicle accidents, and anything else that may come up during the course of the shift on the official Department Twitter account, @PaloAltoPolice.

“I’m looking forward to spending the night with my officers and with all of our Twitter followers across Palo Alto and beyond,” said Chief Burns.  “My goal is to give everyone insight into the realities of policing in Palo Alto, and also to bring attention to our social media channels.  In the event of a disaster or widespread critical incident, we want people to turn to our social media outlets for emergency information.”

This will be the second “virtual ride-along” via Twitter that the Department has done.  On November 9, 2012, our Twitter followers joined a patrol officer as he worked a normal shift.  The event was very successful, with hundreds of new followers joining us, Twitter users submitting questions throughout the night, and people following the event from across the country.  The event is being featured in an upcoming issue of POLICE Magazine, a leading law enforcement trade publication.

All tweets will include the hashtag “PAPDvra” for “Palo Alto Police Department virtual ride-along.”  Twitter users can ask us questions during the ride-along by using the hashtag or mentioning us.  We will answer questions as time allows.  We estimate sending between 100 and 250 tweets during the twelve-hour ride-along, depending on the volume of calls of service and the level of engagement with the public.

Chief Burns began his career as an officer with the Palo Alto Police Department in 1982.  Since then, he has held every rank and has worked virtually every assignment within the Department.  He became the interim Police Chief in December 2008, and was named the Police Chief in September 2009.  He commands an agency with 161 personnel and an annual budget of over $30 million.  He also served as the interim chief of the Palo Alto Fire Department from July 2010 to December 2012.

The Palo Alto Police Department launched all of its social media platforms in March 2012.  Since then, our Twitter account has gained more than 2,300 followers and our Facebook page has gained more than 1300 “likes.”  Links to all of our social media platforms can be found at