- Contact Name: Dionne Waugh
- Contact Phone: 804.646.0607
- Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: 9/13/2010
The Richmond Police Department (RPD) is situated in an urban and diverse area of central Virginia. With three colleges within the city limits and a combination of public housing developments and wealthy, historic homes, Richmond is a melting pot of culture. The Richmond Police Department consists of 760 sworn officers and 250 civilian employees, serving a population of over 200,000 residents.
RPD approaches their social media presence with a high degree of flexibility. The Public Affairs team recognizes these tools as a continuously evolving medium with endless nuances. Their strategy has changed and expanded as they have become more comfortable with the platforms and observed the different ways other public safety agencies are using the various applications.
RPD uses Twitter, Facebook, and their department and city websites to form a cohesive structure that allows the community to be better informed and therefore make better decisions. Each social media platform provides RPD with a unique way to reach out and engage. For example, RPD uses Twitter to send quick, accurate, and succinct messages, that may then drive an individual to the department site for more information. These tools have allowed RPD to improve their relationships with community members and reach audiences that are often hard to engage.
One challenge faced by many agencies is the concern that by engaging in social media the agency will be opening themselves up to a deluge of negative comments from the public. Some officials in RPD had this concern as well, but the real life experiences have shown a much different outcome. Almost all the comments and feedback the RPD has received has been positive. However, on one occasion, a community member posted an ambiguous Facebook comment that then led to many inappropriate responses. The RPD Public Affairs team chose to delete the inappropriate comments. However, they did not stop there. The team posted a message that articulated how much the RPD appreciates the public’s comments, but that inappropriate and off-topic content will not be allowed. Not only did this stop further inappropriate comments, but one individual who had made a comment that had been removed, wrote back and apologized.
When asked what advice they had for law enforcement agencies that have yet to engage with social media or are just getting started, the RPD Public Affairs team said they encourage everyone to at least try. They stressed that there is nothing wrong with starting small and taking incremental steps to build your social media presence over time. Determine what works for you and suits the needs of your agency and community, as there is no single successful approach to social media. RPD has taken this approach themselves, staying flexible in order to move forward in new and innovative ways in order to continue to reach their goals.