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Cop helps woman across finish line. Can social media help police shed negative image? (+video)

As more and more Americans take to social media, candid views of law enforcement, both good and bad, become more common. 

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    Photographs of a Louisville Police officer helping a woman finish a 10k race quickly spread throughout social media, making a runner who was among the last to finish, one of the race's biggest winners. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story.
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The simple act of a Louisville Metro Police officer helping Asia Ford, who has lost 217 pounds, make it the last two miles to the finish line at a 10k race, created a social media event which demonstrates how many more miles law enforcement has to go in order to shed the weight of negative opinions, that have been so hard for the nation to bear.

Ms. Ford, mother of three, was participating in the Rodes City Run as part of her weight-loss journey. However, according to media reports, her stamina began to falter two excruciating miles from the finish line.
 That’s when Lt. Aubrey Gregory of the Louisville Metro Police lent her an arm and his moral support, helping her for the rest of the 10k race.

"I'm not going to let her quit, so I got out and she immediately grabbed my hand," LMPD Lt. Aubrey Gregory told local media.

Ford and her son Terrance crossed the line with Gregory and the moment was captured by spectators who quickly posted the images to social media, where they spread like wildfire.

“There are so many things playing into those photos becoming viral today, when a year ago they would just have been largely ignored,” says Lauri Stevens of LAWS Communications in an interview. “There is all this negativity out there and social media makes everything bigger. People don’t expect police officers to do nice things. It’s become a man bites dog situation.”

Ms. Stevens a columnist for PoliceOne.com, LawOfficer.com founded LAWS Communications in 2005 to assist law enforcement professionals implement interactive media technologies.

Not everyone is convinced, however. Some are appending the hashtag #copaganda to positive images of law enforcement.

“The reality is that police are doing the same things they have always done,” says Stevens. “They’re not shooting more people. They’re not just starting to do good things either. It’s that with the advent of social media everything they do is now being witnessed and shared in an environment that makes everything bigger than it really is.”

Stevens points to the events which took place in Ferguson, Missouri as the tipping point when social media forever altered the meaning of the phrase police surveillance by placing officers under the microscope 24-7.

“Police are just being caught on camera more than ever,” she explains. “If there is any good coming from the events that happened in Ferguson it’s that those who have always been supportive of law enforcement are now using social media to get images like what we are seeing of Asia Ford today.”

According to Stevens, “There have always been officers who sing in their cars, dance and help people. The difference is that now [law enforcement is] not blocking us from seeing those big personalities. They’re learning to tell their stories. We’re learning to tell their stories on social media too, and maybe soon people won't be so shocked when those stories are positive.”

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