Some Utah police agencies find success on TikTok, amid state bans

Dec 14, 2022, 6:42 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 2:47 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A local police agency said it found success reaching out to the community through TikTok, even as Utah joins a growing list of states banning its state agencies from using the controversial app.All Posts

The Salt Lake Police Department launched its TikTok account early last month. It has posted just six videos so far, each garnering thousands of views. One of them has nearly two million views.

“That shows that there is interest in seeing what life is like behind the doors of the Salt Lake City Police Department,” Brent Weisberg, spokesperson at the department said.

“The number one priority for our police department is to continue to build and strengthen the relationship with our community members.”

Weisberg said the decision to get an account on the platform came after seeing the success law enforcement agencies large and small were having on the app across the country. Particularly in efforts to connect with younger audiences.

“We need to answer the question of, how do we communicate with this targeted audience? And TikTok has been one of those ways,” he said.

But in recent months, the FBI director has warned about the potential dangers in using the app. And a growing number of states have issued bans.

In his executive order issued Monday, Gov. Spencer Cox cited national security concerns. The order noted that China has control over companies headquartered there like ByteDance, which owns TikTok.

The governor referenced the FBI’s warning that the Chinese government could influence the app’s algorithm and potentially have access to personal data TikTok collects.

When the order came down, spokesman John Gleason said the Utah Department of Transportation took down their account immediately.

The agency had what many might consider a successful run since joining TikTok in February. They had about 120,000 followers on the app, which is more followers than they have on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram combined.

“We did. We had a lot of fun. But it’s one of many ways we communicate,” Gleason said.

“We really want people to have the information they need so they can make plans before hitting the road and just really reaching out to people in ways that resonate with them.”

Gleason said they supported the governor’s order and would work to put more energy into their other social media accounts and looking for new ways to share their message with the community.

“We’re really interested in reaching younger audiences, older audiences, and everybody in between,” he said.

Weisberg said the department was aware of the concerns with using TikTok and said, “we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect our infrastructure here at the Salt Lake City Police Department.”

“We’re monitoring the situation when it comes to security threats. We are a police department so that is one of the things that we do every single day.”

For now, he said they would continue to work on connecting with those they serve through the app and even using it as a recruiting tool for their department.

The Orem and American Fork police departments also have active TikTok accounts that have many videos with millions of views.

“If TikTok goes away we’re still going to find a way to communicate with the community members,” he said. “At the end of the day we want to make sure we’re communicating with our community members.”

The order only applies to executive branch agencies and excludes the legislative and judicial branches. That means colleges, the Attorney General’s Office, and city and county agencies are not included in the ban.

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Some Utah police agencies find success on TikTok, amid state bans