- Contact Name: Chief Billy Grogan
- Contact Phone: 678.382.6902
- Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: 10/27/2015
The Dunwoody Police Department (DPD) is located in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. The department serves the city of 47,000 with 54 sworn officers and 10 civilian employees. Populated with office buildings, a college campus, a mass transit station, and a regional mall, the day time population swells to over 100,000. Residents of Dunwoody are fairly affluent, well-educated, and active Web users.
The city of Dunwoody is young, incorporated on December 1, 2008, and the police department is even younger. DPD’s first day serving the community was April 1, 2009 and they hit the ground running with social media, launching their Twitter account the same day. Chief Billy Grogan knew, as a department, they had a unique opportunity to begin their first day with a clean slate. They had no history or reputation with their community and this was their one chance to make a first impression.
DPD decided to use Twitter, and later Facebook and YouTube, to enhance communication with the people, businesses, and organizations in their community. The feedback has been positive. The community feels they know and trust the members of DPD. Today, the department has expanded their social media reach to include Vine, Pinterest, Instagram, and Periscope.
Chief Grogan noted that the use of Twitter has been advantageous on other levels as well. In the fall of 2010, a homicide was reported in the vicinity of a school. No students or school personnel were involved in the incident, however, it was immediately picked up by local and national media as a school shooting. Before media crews arrived, DPD officials used Twitter to send out messages from the scene, notifying their followers (a group that contains both community members and media outlets) of the facts of the situation. These quick bursts of immediate, accurate information kept the situation from spiraling out of control.
In addition, a citizen reported several traffic issues to the DPD using Twitter. The department was responsive to his safety concerns, issued several citations and reported the outcome on Twitter. As a result, the citizen contacted a local television station and a positive story about DPD’s responsiveness was generated.
As a smaller law enforcement agency, DPD has personnel limitations that keep them from doing everything they would like with social media. However, Chief Grogan notes, that every agency does not have to be present on all social media sites. He understands that many departments may find it confusing or even overwhelming when figuring out where to start with social media. Chief Grogan recommends looking first at your community and how they communicate. Also, look at other agencies and see what they are using, and how they are using it. Take a small bite, he says, picking even just a single tool and learn the ins and outs and how to use it well.
Initially, Chief Grogan recommends starting a social media program out with a centralized approach, which is exactly how the Dunwoody Police Department’s social media program started. Chief Grogan was the only person who posted information on any site. The benefits of this centralized approach are you speak with one voice, the message is controlled, and there is more accountability and fewer mistakes.
Over time, this model is difficult to maintain, even if the Chief is not the one posting the information. Chief Grogan recommends a decentralized approach for most departments. Today, approximately 18 members of DPD are allowed to post information on the department’s social media sites. This method provides broad coverage, the ability to cover real-time events, showcases a variety of personalities, and occasionally has that great post that would otherwise not have happened.
Chief Grogan and DPD have found great success in using social media from the very inception of their department’s service. The positive comments from citizens on the DPD’s various social media platforms have been translated into positives attitudes about the department. A recent email received from a citizen is a vivid reminder of how using social media can benefit every law enforcement agency.
“Hi there: I just wanted to send a little note and let you know how much I appreciate you and your team. Brave people don’t come around every day and from what I see on Dunwoody PD Facebook and in the news, you have some brave and wonderful people working at the precinct. I hope you are doing well. Thank you for all you do!!”
As they continue to move forward with their social media endeavors they plan on continuing to increase their community engagement, being transparent and being responsive to their community.