Tales of the Twitter police

January 19, 2010, 4:19 PM UTC

It was a rainy kind of morning, you know the way they get sometimes in the big city. You look out the window and you’re pretty sure it’s pouring down on the street below, but you can’t really tell until you look down and see the forest of cheap black umbrellas going by. I’d just had my 16th cup of coffee, and cleaned my gun for the sixth time since last Wednesday. All things being equal, maintaining an overly clean sidearm is one of the more minor sins of law enforcement, unless you’re like my colleague, McGinty, whose snub-nosed .38 was so well-lubricated (not unlike its owner) that it slipped out of its holster, hit the ground and blew his ear off. That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, though. You gotta think it was, anyway.

Anyhow, I was just about ready to fall face first into my oatmeal when the Twitter alarm went off. It’s a recent addition to our office. We put it right next to the scanner that monitors all incoming calls from officers in the field. We’re not the only department with the new hardware. Just this week, police in England arrested some perpetrator who expressed the intention of blowing up Robin Hood airport, wherever the heck that is, if they didn’t clear their snowy runways in time for his departure for Ireland. Guy thought he was kidding. Big joke. The Twitter bobbies confiscated his iPhone, laptop and computer, and he’s banned for life from that airport. He’s out on bail now, awaiting trial. I guess they’ll throw the book at him. You can’t be too careful. Guy says he was only kidding, but how can you tell in a Twitter? You can’t. Tone of voice is very hard to establish.

Keeping an eye on these kinds of things are what guys like me are all about. New times create new criminals and new police officers to meet the new challenge. We’re here to keep you safe from the wrong kind of Twitters and the Twitterers who Twitter them. Knowledge is power, you know, even an itty-bitty amount of it.

Not all of us Twitter policemen have the same outlook and duties, of course. Every place has its own idea of what should not be Twittered. In Guatemala, for instance, some individual decided to undermine the credibility of his local bank, which he said was corrupt. “First concrete action should be take cash out of Banrural and bankrupt the bank of the corrupt,” he Twittered. They arrested him. Searched his home. Kept him in a maximum-security prison with bigtime skells for a day and a half before letting him out on bail. That will teach him to impugn the honesty of Guatemalan banking officials.

And just a couple of months ago, at that big economic conference in Pittsburgh, the FBI managed to nab some guy who thought he could help those anarchists avoid arrest by Twittering police locations.  Raided his house in Queens. Got the goods on him. This particular individual seems to be a social worker of some kind who belongs to several suspicious groups that advise protesters on their rights during confrontational actions. Just the idea of a person like that being on the street makes us Twitter police very nervous.

Twitters are dangerous, see. The messages are brief, but so are most of the subversive messages that have been sent and received by troublemakers over the years. Think about it. “Give me liberty or give me death,” for instance. That did a world of damage. “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” That Mao fellow got pretty far with that one. How about “Who moved my cheese?” That sold a lot of books for no reason I can ascertain. When it comes to riling people up, size doesn’t matter is my point. Your punchy Twitter is worth a bunch of screeds.

Anyhow, that’s what me and McGinty and Spitz and Mazilewski are here for. We’re the Twitter police. We sit around most of the day doing nothing, eating doughnuts, making sure our pieces are well-oiled. But every now and then, like right now, that little alarm goes off and we hit the street. You can thank us if you like. Ignore us at your peril. And watch those little jokes, ladies and gentlemen. We don’t have a very good sense of humor when the safety of the State is at stake. And we’re coming to a town right near you.

Catch up with Stanley Bing on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thebingblog.

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