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Finding a solution for public records and social media in law enforcement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Deputy Mark Gregory set out to launch a social media presence for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, he knew he was bound to face a few obstacles. Like any law enforcement agency posting communications on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, he would need to justify the usage of each site to his internal team, and create a plan for how citizen’s comments and replies were managed. He would need internal and external social media policies to address issues such as employee use, comment moderation, and the need to maintain compliance with government requirements such as the Washington Public Records Act. Regardless, Mark knew that it was essential to move forward. As he explained, “It’s a very important tool for law enforcement agencies. We must be able to openly communicate with the citizens we serve and social media is one of the most effective ways we can do that.”

"Uncool" in Jamies World

 

 

 

 

 
by Aaron Holloway
Ever thought of using a celebrity to endorse and help spread your key messages via social media? I’m not talking about getting an “A list” Hollywood movie star as we all know that most law enforcement budgets don’t extend that the far.

Officers xx and Groth rescuing xx and Trouble.

Capturing the Moment

Does the public ever get to know about the good things your officers do on a daily basis? With today’s smart phones it can be as simple as taking a picture or creating a short video. That is exactly what an Omaha Police Officer did when he met up with two fellow officers.

Officers Barnes and Groth rescuing Mayala and Trouble.

Police Officers Barnes and Groth were on duty driving on the interstate on one of the coldest days of the year when they spotted two dogs in traffic. Rather than just driving on down the road, they stopped their cruisers and rescued the dogs. While that is a great story and, one of many that officers perform daily, what makes this moment even better is an officer’s foresight to document it.

When the officers returned with the dogs, a quick 30 second video about the dogs’ rescue and quick picture were taken. Let me just say this again… a 30 second video and a quick snapshot. That’s all the time that it took to make a huge positive impact for our department.

Realizing the value of the picture and video, the officer quickly posted it on the Omaha Police Officers Association Facebook Page under the heading, “ More Evidence… Cops Love Dogs,” and we shared it on the Omaha Police Department’s Facebook Page.

So let’s take a look at the numbers from this one post. At the time of this writing and between the two Facebook pages, the post was shared almost 400 times, had over 250 comments, the majority of which praised officers for saving the dogs, and was seen by 94,000 people! And believe it or not, it was picked up by one of the four local news stations who ran two great positive new stories.

We all know from firsthand experience that, if it were a negative cop/dog story, all the stations would have covered it, however this is a great example of how to create your own positive press relations in your community.   (After the dogs were turned over to the Humane Society, the owner signed papers to have the dogs adopted. Once that went public, he tried to get the dogs back. However he had an active warrant for cruelty to animals and the rest of the dogs were removed from the house.)

So who captures your positive moments on your department? Do your officers understand the value of positive press? Do your command officers understand the value of positive press? These are questions you should consider asking and consider when drafting social media policies. Find officers that are willing to capture and share those good moments. Share positive photos and videos on your department’s Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Utilize the free marketing campaign that is at your fingertips. It’s our favorite price… FREE!

Waiting in the wings is that next negative situation that will go public and make us all look bad. Why not get ahead of that and start promoting all the good things that your department does. Good stories happen every day. Make sure your department capitalizes on them. 30 seconds is a very short time to make an impact… good or bad!

 

Bridget is a 17 year veteran of the Omaha Police Department. Her work as a Crime Prevention Specialist has given her insight to many of the communities concerns. She has been one of the administrators of the OPD Facebook page for approximately 2 years. Her involvement as a Facebook administrator has been instrumental in increasing the fan base for the page and helping to control the fallout due to controversial issues.

Editor’s note: Fitzpatrick is the recipient of the first ConnectedCOPS “Civilian Award of Excellence” with social media.

hero911

Free app alerts nearby officers of active school shootings

Whether on or off duty, LEOs can now receive immediate “active shooter” notifications on their iPhone or Android smartphones.

It’s been one year since the second deadliest mass murder at a U.S. elementary school. On December 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, decades-long conversations and debates around gun control, the effects of video games, mental health funding and treatment, and onsite school security protocols have been renewed, with intense and desperate focus on protecting our nation’s children.

At Sandy Hook, the school’s security system had recently been upgraded prior to the shooting – the school doors locked each morning at 9:30 a.m. and visitors had to be visually identified before being allowed to enter the school. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep the gunman from forcing his way into the school.

Short of turning each school building in the country into a prison-like setting with metal detectors, bullet proof glass (or no glass doors and windows at all), and armed security guards stationed throughout, is there anything that can be done to prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again?

“We may never be able to prevent these extreme acts of violence, but we can reduce the amount of time in which there is nothing standing between a gunman and his victims, and ultimately, we can save more lives,” said retired Illinois State Police Colonel Michael Snyders, president of the Social Protection Network Foundation.

A new smartphone app—HERO911—has been created exclusively for federal, state and local law enforcement officers (LEOs) and has the potential to dramatically reduce response time and increase the available pool of police officers who can respond to a school shooting.

“Our country’s 911 system is very sophisticated and effective,” said Snyders. “But there are multiple steps involved between making a call to 911 and help arriving on the scene.” A call made to 911 is routed to a centralized 911 call center that may or may not be experiencing a high volume of calls. Once answered, the caller must explain the situation and it must be interpreted by the 911 operator. The operator directs the call to the appropriate agency, who then must also interpret the situation before dispatching officers to the scene. “The average school shooting lasts 12 minutes,” noted Snyders.

The HERO911 Network™ adopted the phrase “When Seconds Saves Lives” in the creation of the HERO911 app, resulting in a means to make an immediate call to 911 of an active school shooting via the push of a button. A simultaneous, direct notification is sent to police officers within a 10 to 15 mile radius (dependent on demographics/geography), whether they are on and off duty. This completely eliminates the explanation and dispatch processes. In one second, the entire emergency response system knows there is an active school shooting and exactly where it is.

HERO911 is a new smartphone app that alerts law enforcement officers of a nearby active school shooting. LEOs can download the free app from iTunes and Google Play stores. With one touch, the teacher’s panic button app simultaneously calls 911, notifies every teacher’s smart phone within the school, and activates the HERO911 Network™ of police officers who have voluntarily downloaded the free app. The smart phone technology displays a mapped location of the initial alert, the number of uniformed and non-uniformed officers who acknowledged the alert, and a continuous timer that displays minutes and seconds since the emergency activation.

The smart phone technology displays a mapped location of the initial alert, the number of uniformed and non-uniformed officers who acknowledged the alert, along with a continuous timer that displays minutes and seconds since the emergency activation. The app works nationwide, so officers will be alerted of an active school shooter incident even while traveling.

The app is only available to sworn law enforcement officers and qualified retired law enforcement officers (as defined by Title 18 USC § 926C). While anyone can download the app, it will only be activated for those who can show law enforcement credentials – once downloaded, the smartphone’s camera feature will open and the user will be prompted to take and send a photo of his or her law enforcement identification. Any police officer who has downloaded the free app will receive the “active shooter” alert, increasing the number of potential responders by as much as 784 percent.

The HERO911 Network™ works in tandem with SchoolGuard™ – a teacher’s panic button app that can only be activated on school grounds by school staff. SchoolGuard™ was developed by Guard911, LLC and is currently being implemented in schools across the nation. There is a fee to set up the application throughout the school, as well as a monthly service fee.

“SchoolGuardTM puts into place innovative and strategic applications to the technology that we have all become familiar: the ‘app,’” said Susanne Buxbaum, a child’s rights advocate and former teacher from central California. “The educators and administrators I work with most often consider themselves to be optimists. We like to think of all schools as being safe environments, but unfortunately this is no longer always so.”

Buxbaum, who visits no less than 10 schools each week, explains that educators and administrators at every school in which she works, without fail, are looking for something to make them feel safer. She believes SchoolGuardTM is that solution.

With the help and input from police, Guard911 developed this school shooting panic button app that simultaneously calls 911, notifies every teacher’s smart phone within the school, activates the HERO911 Network™ of police officers, and alerts all surrounding schools that are on the SchoolGuardTM system. In order to limit the HERO911 Network™ response to school shootings only, the teacher’s panic button app also provides a separate “911 Only” button and a separate “Teacher Assist” button for intra school, non-shooting emergencies. See smart phone display image.

“I am so enthusiastic about this product that I invited representatives from Guard911 to meet with the district superintendents of the 12 public schools I serve in my five-county region in southeastern Illinois, said Monte Newlin,” Regional Superintendent of Schools in Illinois. “The response from those present was every bit as enthusiastic as mine.”

According to Snyders, a team of police officers and technology experts have spent months developing and fine tuning both applications that are now ready to go.

“Our challenge now will be to make sure that every officer and every school in the nation knows they are available,” said Snyders.

All law enforcement officers are encouraged to download the free HERO911 app from Apple iTunes or Google Play. Additionally, encourage your colleagues to join the HERO911 Network™ and invite the schools in your communities to consider implementing SchoolGuard™.

For additional information, please visit www.HERO911.org and www.SchoolGuard.com.

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