- Contact Name: Chief Chris Burbank
- Contact Phone: 801.799.3000
- Contact E-mail: email@example.com
- Date: 9/8/2010
The Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) employs 440 sworn and 190 civilian employees. The 182,000 resident population swells to around 300,000 daily in this urban, diverse city in northern Utah.
When SLCPD began using social media, they did not just take on a new communication tool, they revitalized their entire approach to public information and public relations. A shift occurred from having an assigned public information officer to having a public relations unit. Chief Chris Burbank pointed out that SLCPD, like many other law enforcement agencies, was very adept at putting out information. What they lacked, was the ability and to receive information and engage in two-way communication. So the new public relations (PR) team stepped in with social media to open up the channels enhancing public interaction with the department. This is not to say that traditional forms of communication were neglected, rather the PR team used social media to remain current and expand their reach to a larger population.
The SLCPD utilizes Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr. They also have a YouTube channel with videos ranging from surveillance footage to press conferences to public events. The positive feedback these videos, in conjunction with other social media initiatives, has been overwhelming. Chief Burbank noted that the department isn’t necessarily doing any more than they have done in the past, but with the videos and social media posts, the department is now able to show the community all that they do.
One of the biggest challenges SLCPD faces daily is the sheer volume which continues to grow exponentially. To combat this challenge, it is necessary that SLCPD keep a fully staffed team. In the face of a budget crisis, similar to those affecting agencies across the country, Chief Burbank is forced to justify the value of the positions that support public relations and engage in social media on the agency’s behalf.
Chief Burbank understands that many law enforcement executives are hesitant to jump into the realm of social media, but he also recognizes that social media is not a fad, it is an avenue that needs to be taken advantage of by departments across the country. With his agency’s use of social media they have set a standard that SLCPD is an open and accessible agency; and other agencies that choose to engage will set a standard for themselves within their communities and these agencies must be willing to follow through with that new expectation. It is a big commitment, and has Salt Lake City has shown, the demand will only grow. But the positive interactions that social media allows for are incredibly valuable.