- Contact Name: Crime Prevention and Community Involvement Specialist Aisha Johnson
- Contact Phone: 540.853.6884
- Contact E-mail: email@example.com
- Date: 4/1/2011
The Roanoke, Virginia, Police Department (RPD) is located in southwest Virginia. The department consists of 250 sworn officers and 54 civilian employees. The city of Roanoke has more than 97,000 residents according to the 2010 United States Census.
In November 2009, RPD began their journey into social media with the Safer City Roanoke campaign, a crime prevention initiative with a focus on property crime. The campaign had many facets including a Facebook page. But, RPD officials wanted to do more. This is when their online community policing strategy began to take shape.
The first step in RPD’s social media implementation process was internal. They created a policy for appropriate social media use. However, instead of just sending out the new policy and assuming staff would take note of it, RPD took a proactive and interactive approach to roll out the new policy. Command staff teamed with the city attorney to offer training to officers, educating them on the risks associated with negligent social media use and providing explanation about the new policy. Officers were also given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with command staff to ask questions about the new policy. RPD wanted to ensure that their officers were able to be proud to be part of the Roanoke Police Department and that they knew how to be smart and responsible with the content the make public.
RPD then moved on to their external efforts which were divided into three phases. The first phase involved increasing their presence on the existing RPD Safer City social media pages. Phase two included the incorporation of video, interviews, and other interactive tools. On the RPD Facebook page, visitors are able to take a virtual tour of the training academy and participate in crime scene investigation with an interactive game tool. Phase three will be increasingly interactive with live streaming video, real-time crime data, and blogging by officers. All of these phases feature an in-person, community component. Officers and other RPD staff go out into the community to inform people about the social media platforms that serve as outlets for information and forums for community members to provide feedback. Additionally, RPD personnel educate their community on how to create profiles on these sites and how to use them safely and responsibly.
All of this has been possible due to a team approach. The social media team consists of personnel from crime prevention and public information, crime analysts and community resource officers. Together, the team ensures there are no hardships placed on any individual, no additional personnel needed, and the social media platforms are kept fresh with new and engaging content.
This strategic approach to implementation has allowed RPD to present a complete and comprehensive online community policing model. RPD staff states that they are flexible enough to realize that if this doesn’t work, then they will reassess and their strategy will evolve. What is important, and is at the cornerstone of every aspect of this initiative, is that the department must meet the demands of their community.