Richmond Police is setting an example for police departments everywhere.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police recognizes RPD as leading the way with social media. Soon, officers from around the world will converge on the city to learn how the department connects with the community through the Internet.
It's not unusual to see Richmond Police Chief Bryan Norwood with his iPad. The department is leading the way when it comes to incorporating social media into police work.
"Humbly speaking, I think that we are," said Norwood. "I think we're doing pretty well, and I think that we're getting recognized for the work that we've done."
They started using new avenues back in 2008, when it wasn't widely accepted.
"It was really trying to reach out to the community in a way that hadn't been done before," said Norwood.
RPD has accounts in almost every social media outlet, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Ustream.
A popular feature is a post called "today's good news." It's one of the first things people see in the feed every morning and has short blip of something positive happening in the department.
Norwood said using social media breaks down walls between the community and the department, which is not always easy.
"We're in every home that has a computer," he explained. "We're in every palm that has a smart phone and people have access to us in a way that hasn't been done before.
It's not without challenges. Authorities have had to come up with a strict policy. Only the four public information officers are allowed to post and everything is vetted.
"We want to make sure the message is consistent," Chief Norwood asserted.
Spokesperson Dionne Waugh handles much of the action and asks the public to be patient.
"We can't be 100 percent transparent," she said. "We wouldn't want to compromise an investigation, but we do want to interact with you."
There's an important caveat. Sending Facebook or Twitter messages is not the same as calling 911.
"At this point in time, we can't take police reports and if there's an emergency, we want to be able to respond instantly," Waugh added.
Right now, compared to other departments of its size, RPD ranks second in number of Twitter followers and fourth in Facebook likes.
Authorities are expecting more than one hundred people from law enforcement agencies around the world to attend a social media conference they are hosting. It is scheduled to begin September 10.
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