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Police Twitter effort bombs out

Police in England refuse to comment on whether a man who has held up a bank has a bomb. However, their updates on Twitter use the hashtag #Watfordbomb.

It's hard to be a policeman. The public has such high expectations of you, and, like a nagging spouse, no one ever seems happy.

However, perhaps some might find their sympathy for one police force threatening to detonate a little, on hearing this tale of arguably misplaced police tweeting.

As the Guardian tells it, police in Watford--a place where trains stop in order to remind people that there is life beyond London--were involved in a delicate operation.

A man had walked into a branch of the Co-Operative Bank, threatened staff, and refused to leave. Rumors spread quickly, as they do in little towns like Watford, that the man was in possession of an explosive device.

Police, ever alert to the dangers of public panic, reportedly refused to comment on this rumor. Moreover, they decided to light the touchpaper of social media to ensure that there was solid, real-time information that would calm the concerned.

Some might see a slight issue with the Twitter hashtag in which the police decided to participate. For it was #watfordbomb.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Who could not be slightly uplifted by this tweet, for example, from the Hertfordshire Police: "We are currently dealing with an incident in Watford. The individual is on his own. No members of the public are at direct risk. #watfordbomb."

It must have been a very small bomb.

It's hard not to offer a little succor to the police. They did have what seemed like an honest explanation for their use of this hashtag. For they tweeted: "We are using the hashtag #watfordbomb as it was created by users and we want to make sure our messages are seen and to keep you updated."

Surely this is understandable. But some might find it understandable in the way that Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff was understandable.

Some might follow this logic to a potentially painful conclusion: if those concerned about, say, a freeway pile-up, decided to gravitate toward the hashtag #freewaybloodbath, would the Hertfordshire police just play along?

Social media is hard, as Rep, Anthony Weiner might observe. You have to react in an instant and hope you are communicating with precisely the right people in the right way (as it turned out, the suspect did allegedly have some kind of explosive device). But perhaps it might have been better if the police had directed those at #watfordbomb to a more reassuring hashtag.

#watfordwedontworry, perhaps.