- Contact Name: Lieutenant Anthony Sizemore
- Contact Phone: 239.574.0642
- Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: 4/30/2012
The Cape Coral, Florida, Police Department (CCPD), located in Southwest Florida, is the largest municipal police department between Tampa and Miami along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Its 325 employees and 150 volunteers serve a waterfront community of 162,000 residents.
In January 2011, the CCPD chief initiated a new community engagement program. The first phase included assigning a lieutenant and sergeant as public information officers in the professional standards bureau, and challenging them to increase the department’s media footprint. The department had seen its public image wane. The good news was being overlooked as certain politicos were committed to ensuring negative news was front and center with the media. With two designated PIOs, the department was then able to take a proactive stance in public relations and community outreach.
Throughout history, law enforcement agencies have gone to where the people are. Hundreds of years ago, that place was the town square and there, officers spread information through flyers and through public speeches. Today, social media is where the people are, and that’s were CCPD needed to be. Those who made their mission negativity couldn’t control or influence the department’s message using social media. So they went. Lieutenant Anthony Sizemore and Sergeant Dana Coston began by focusing their efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They chose these broad, popular platforms to commit their resources to, so they did not overextend themselves and were able to maintain a quality product. CCPD later added Flickr to its social media strategy.
CCPD aims to become the go-to source for information in Cape Coral. They understand that they will not be able to keep followers unless they provide good, relevant, interesting content. One way to keep things interesting is to try new initiatives and so CCPD decided to “Tweet from the Beat,” an idea they borrowed from a law enforcement agency in the United Kingdom.
This virtual ride along took place in March 2012. During a 12-hour shift, someone from the department would take pictures, provide information, and answer questions, making those who tuned in feel as though they were right there with the officers on the beat. Leading up to the event, CCPD put out various marketing pieces and teasers to get people interested. They pushed out content on Flickr and YouTube. The actual “Tweet from the Beat” event only took place on Twitter, however, CCPD saw an increase in followers and fans across all their social media platforms. Because of the success of the event, CCPD plans to repeat “Tweet from the Beat” several times a year, giving the community members insight into the department and improving relationships.
Lieutenant Sizemore stressed that he is far from a tech-savvy guy. He was a street cop who accepted a new assignment and the challenges it brought, and has found great success. Lieutenant Sizemore and Sergeant Coston encourage others to do the same, while offering a bit of advice to them: be good at a few things that you know you can sustain. Their last bit of wisdom was to remind agencies that having fans of your department is always a good thing.
All agencies must decide what resources they are willing to and can dedicate to social media. For CCPD, their social media investment is approximately equal to one large Starbucks frappuccino a day, and for that, they feel they get a pretty good return.