Sheriff's Office Sees Positive Results with Collective Engagement Approach to Social Media

A downturn in the economy in 2008 and the need for more control of the information circulating through the community drove positive changes in one California law enforcement agency.

by / April 6, 2016
Government Technology

RENO, Nev. — A downturn in the economy in 2008 and the need for more control of the information circulating through the community drove positive changes in one California law enforcement agency.

Following several attempts to better engage the public and news media, officials within the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office settled on a social media management style that does not require a full-time public information officer (PIO), but rather the collective efforts of agency employees.

On Wednesday, April 6, during the 2016 Government Social Media Conference (GSMCON), Deputy Sheriff Royjindar Singh discussed the unconventional method and the how multiple voices are managed through popular platforms.

The use of multiple, designated handles under the agency’s Facebook account, Singh said, has allowed for the accountable and timely flow of information from deputies and staff to the public and news media.

“Our social media team is about 30 staff within our department,” he said. “We have coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

After striking the balance between what he referred to as “cop stuff” and other content, the agency engaged the citizens within its jurisdiction and four other contract cities with posts on such topics as arrest notifications and charitable work on the part of deputies. 

The coordinated approach allows on-duty reporting as well as real-time monitoring of questions from the public, which Singh said in smaller towns equates to fewer calls to dispatch for information.

“We give them a lot of freedom on what they are going to post," he said. "On major incidents, homicides or major critical incidents, we limit what they are going to post, maybe just some very brief information … we want to keep the integrity of the investigation for our detective.” 

While the agency relies on Facebook for general daily posts and incident information, Twitter is managed by only a handful of social media team members and is used especially effectively for quick, to-the-point communications.

Singh said the platform allows for no frills delivery of information such as road closures and incident updates, and offers better direct access to media outlets.

This collective engagement approach was effectively deployed following the November 2015 Denair Tornado, which Singh said resulted in fewer calls from the media, the more effective distribution of information and services, and immediate availability of images from the scene.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.