Detective Joe Murray, author of tweets that matter

Philadelphia Detective Joe Murray won an award for using Twitter to help people and offer a positive image for the police.

Detective Joe Murray was home on the couch when he saw the tweet.

It was from Sarah Baicker. She covers the Flyers for She and Joe are Twitter friends. They both really like coffee and the movie Dirty Dancing.

This tweet was about something serious, though. A GoFundMe account for a South Philly bike mechanic named Dom who got locked up trying to recover his friend's stolen bike. He had spotted it locked to a railing. The guy said he bought it on Craigslist. The guy gave him the bike back. No force. No violence. But police locked Dom up anyway for felony robbery. Dom needed money for an attorney.

"Wait, what? I'll look into this tomorrow," Murray tweeted Baicker.

He pulled the report. He talked with the District Attorney's Office.

"They were super cool about it," Murray said.

A few weeks ago, all charges were dropped. Dom went on his way.

At a City Hall news conference Friday, Mayor Nutter gave Murray a Richardson Dilworth service award for innovation in government for implementing a new idea that brought about dramatic results.

In other words, for doing what he's been doing for years: using Twitter to better the department and help people - people like Dom.

For putting himself out there as a cop who genuinely loves his job and his city. And having a ton of fun doing it.

"I'm not a robot," he says. "Nobody trusts a robot. What you see is me. I'm not going to pretend."

That's the truth. I've known him since 2011. Murray contains multitudes.

On any given day, he could be tweeting about his love of Wegmans and wrestling, or the time he and a partner chased car thieves through a pitch-black junkyard. The great new essay in Poets & Writers, or a rash of gunpoint robberies around 49th and Cedar. The line for fancy cheese at Di Bruno Brothers, or how they just caught the guys who were robbing the airport hotels around Christmas.

He's interesting, so people are interested.

And he's smack in the middle of the absurd yet sincere Philadelphia Twitterverse, the 20 or 30 people who tell jokes all day - their 24-hour badgering of weatherman John Bolaris before a recent snowstorm was a thing of organic comic beauty - but then rally when it counts.Like when they helped Murray and other police identify the three idiots who attacked a gay couple in Center City in October.

People connect with Murray - 5,088 and rising.

"It's such a great way to personify the police force," Baicker says. "He makes them so much more approachable."

And that couldn't be more important right now as the department wrestles with transparency issues and as police everywhere accept the real need to foster trust and respect in communities.

As a crime reporter, I first wrote about Murray's social-media efforts when Twitter was young and it was virtually unheard of for any cop to be out there doing what he was doing. And now so many other cops have followed, some good at it, some not. But credit the department for following his lead and blending personality and humor into its official social media. It goes a long way.

At Friday's City Hall event, Murray read his speech from his phone - of course, he did - thanking the department for letting him do his thing and the people in the community who nominated him.

He had won policing awards, he said, but never one from the community, and that meant a lot.

He's just going to keep doing what he's been doing, he said.

"I'm going to be me," he said.

Good for him.

And that's good for the department.

215-854-2759 @MikeNewall