When most police departments think about social media, they focus, obviously, on their sworn officers and then their civilian employees.
But what about the volunteers?
These are the people who are actively supporting the department by taking time out of their day to help because they want to aid officers and better their community. They’re also often overlooked.
That’s where social media comes in. For example, I recently did a virtual ride along, or TweetAlong, with two of our police volunteers who are part of our Neighborhood Assistance Officer (NAO) program.
The NAO program
allows citizens to learn about the department and what officers do first hand and it lets them have a sense of pride by helping officers with their duties when the opportunity allows. The volunteer program puts citizens through training about how to do things like fill out paperwork, direct traffic, crowd control, search for missing persons, and other non-enforcement duties.
This is a program we definitely want to recognize and promote as a police department and what better way than on social media where you already have a supportive audience.
The two wonderful NAOs with whom I rode could not be more grateful and happy that I took the time to pay attention to what they were doing during a recent patrol. I tweeted info and photos about who they were, why they volunteer, and some of the incidents they encountered, such as checking on a disabled motorist, having an abandoned vehicle towed, and directing traffic at a car accident.
I also posted some of the updates on Facebook, which generated several positive comments, new fans of the Facebook page, and a lot of interest in volunteering for the program. We also received a handful of questions about the specifics of the program that allowed us to educate those people and others who follow us on Twitter. A win-win for everyone!
But the best part of the night for me, and the NAOs, was when they received the below message on their in-car computer from an officer they had assisted earlier in the night. From Officer Wood, Unit 415, to the NAOs, Unit 934, the simple message is the entire reason they volunteer. Social media gave us the opportunity to share that.