Police departments turn to social media for outreach - KMOV.com

Police departments turn to social media for outreach

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Police departments around the St. Louis area are finding another way to connect with the neighborhoods they work to protect. Within the last month, Ellisville Police joined the ranks using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In November, the department created a social media coordinator position. Corp. Joey Nickles is leading the charge online. His goal is for the people they serve to know where officers are, what they are doing and even who they are as people.

"Expect real life information," said Nickles. "We are an agency that believes in transparency and reaching out to the community. We also want to be real. We don't want to just put info out there that we think is going to put us in a good light or certain groups in a good light. We want to showcase the realities of who we are, what we do, and do that through Facebook and Twitter."

The agency has used Facebook for about a year but only started tweeting a couple weeks ago. They've already used the sites to reveal where officers are monitoring school speed zones, give updates on a missing teen, and even share videos of officers on Halloween.

"Our goal is writing no tickets. That’s really what we want to do. So we want to encourage the public to do the right thing. But we don’t want to be hidden. We don’t like the secretiveness of 'Where are they?' At the same time, we want people to know we could be anywhere at any time and they should slow down," said Nickles.

Nickles said they see it as another arm of community outreach. He said they've spent years looking for opportunities to be more transparent and up front with information. Social media makes that easy. The agency also recognizes it's more important than ever to have a way to speak to the masses.

"What we learned from Ferguson is that it's very, very important to get real time, accurate information out to the public in as timely a manner as possible. That's what we are doing with the community outreach," said Nickles.

Since millennials have been tweeting and facebooking for years, some may consider this department behind the times. Nickles said they took time to create a thorough social media policy before jumping in. One example is they've decided to only post mug shots if the person has been charged with a felony.

The new approach shouldn't cost taxpayers more. Nickles said the officers are posting to social media as part of their regular duties.

Ellisville now joins other departments in the St.  Louis area that use social media as a tool to communicate with citizens and media, too. The St. Louis Fire Department is very active on Twitter and often posts updates from the scene. St. Louis County Police even shares pictures on Instagram in addition to other sites.

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