- Contact Name: Lieutenant Kris Sell
- Contact Phone: 907.586.0600
- Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: 12/1/2010
The Juneau Police Department (JPD) serves the capital city of Alaska. The permanent population of 31,000 residents plays host to over a million tourists each year. The Juneau community is relatively wealthy and well-educated and also has a high rate of Internet use.
The JPD started their journey into social media after Chief Greg Browning made it a priority to update the department’s static Web presence. About six months after establishing a Twitter account, the JPD launched their Ask a Dispatcher program, just a small part of a larger commitment of community service. JPD recognizes that no department, including theirs, can afford to lose the support of their community.
There were many unexpected outcomes of the Ask a Dispatcher initiative. The community knows they are heard and uses this forum not just to ask questions, but also to send supportive and positive messages to the department. The messages have also created an archive of knowledge accessible not only to the community, but also to department personnel who may not know the answer to specific questions. In addition, the questions asked paint a picture of the community, with all their needs, wants, and concerns. This has allowed JPD to better direct resources to the areas and issues that are most important to the public.
When JPD was getting ready to launch the Ask a Dispatcher initiative, there was some trepidation from the legal department and others in the agency. However, it was also acknowledged, that these conversations were taking place already, and the Ask a Dispatcher program would allow JPD to take the time to answer these questions in a more well-researched and complete manner. JPD has also learned that some things are just not going to work. When JPD called a virtual town hall meeting they were expecting an audience larger than a single participant. The lesson learned was that people want to communicate, but when it is convenient for them.
When asked what advice they had for other law enforcement agencies getting into social media, Chief Greg Browning and Lieutenant Kris Sell agreed: use common sense, be bold, do your research, and get out there. There are rewards for being bold. While not everything is going to work, by finding innovative ways to engage with the public your agency is showing the community that they will be treated with a sense of respect and responsiveness. The JPD also acknowledged that people are really hungry for this type of interaction. People are creating relationships online every day, and if law enforcement agencies are brave enough to move into that space they will find a willing audience.