When you think of a social media influencer, a certain type of individual likely comes to mind: young and fashionable with a strong, relatable persona. Maybe they’re a good dancer, artist or comedian. Maybe they offer fitness tips or an aspirational feed of photos from exotic locales.
Though one of the city’s most popular influencers checks a few of these boxes, he’s probably not what you’d expect.
Toronto Police officer Randall Arsenault is, yes, an active duty cop by day (and by night) — but he also has more social media followers than a lot of TikToking teens and could very well be one of your mom’s favourite people on Instagram for… obvious reasons.
A post shared by Officer Randall Arsenault (@officerarsenault) on Jan 18, 2020 at 6:17am PST
“I like to have fun with it… people are attracted to personality,” he says, largely crediting his combined following of more than 338,000 across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tiktok to his mantra of “allowing your personality to shine through without getting personal.”
A trip through Officer Arsenault’s posts will make you run the gamut of human emotion: you’ll be surprised, you’ll learn a little, you’ll laugh a lot and you’ll probably “aww” at least once.
A post shared by Officer Randall Arsenault (@officerarsenault) on Jan 5, 2020 at 5:51am PST
He manages to inject valuable policing lessons about things like break-and-enters or drunk driving into or between otherwise humorous and entertaining posts, noting that “one complements the other.”
He also puts his character on display in his often-impromptu photos and videos, showcasing some on-the-job and off-the-job realness, like his handy hacks for chopping wood or his work with Mornelle Allstars, an organization that runs programming for local youth.
A post shared by Officer Randall Arsenault (@officerarsenault) on Jan 11, 2020 at 7:32am PST
Arsenault’s personable, fresh delivery has extended the reach of educational content tenfold (his TikTok videos collectively have nearly three million likes) while garnering him a massive following in the process.
With this following, he’s managed to humanize members of a vocation that the public can often perceive as unapproachable, intimidating or worse, especially given the history of violent and fatal incidents involving police, particularly in the U.S.
“I think it has helped change the perception of cops 100 per cent, and that message is relayed to me by people every day both in-person and in comments on my posts,” Arsenault says, adding that many followers can’t believe police in Canada are able to interact with the public in the way that he does on the platform because they have an idea of a certain way officers are “supposed” to act.
“That way isn’t me,” he says. “The fun posts show me as a person and show that I like to poke fun at things and myself.”
A post shared by Officer Randall Arsenault (@officerarsenault) on Nov 16, 2019 at 12:22pm PST
It’s these posts that elicit a laugh and show officers as relatable human beings, rather than stoic authority figures, that have seemed to resonate most with the public.
Though Arsenault says he’s gotten his fair share of negative feedback, it’s clear that he and other officers in Toronto and abroad have been able to leverage Instagram and TikTok to connect with their communities.
A post shared by Officer Randall Arsenault (@officerarsenault) on Dec 14, 2019 at 6:40am PST
“It’s almost like therapy for me as well,” Arsenault says. “It’s an outlet that never existed when my father was a police officer.”
But, despite his own success on the platforms, he understands that it isn’t something that would be suitable for all in his field. “It’s one tool that we have,” he says. “It’s my strength, but it may not be everyone’s.”