Sometimes, police use social media to get leads on investigations; other times, they use it to give the public a clearer picture of what the police do.
The police department uses its YouTube page to post video from press conferences and recordings from officers’ body cameras, according to Police Chief David Moore.
Moore said people are more likely to comply with officers if they know they are being recorded.
“We’re able to get some dynamic video off of those body cameras that we can share with the community ... “ Moore said. “People will ask if the camera is on and if the officer says yes it is, then they’re very cooperative.”
Moore said the cameras also have allowed the department to provide a more complete picture of what they do.
Last year, for example, Moore said a YouTube user posted a 30-second video of a man who had been arrested after allegedly stealing jewelry at the Janesville Mall.
Some who saw the video were concerned about how the suspect was treated.
Moore said the department was able to post the full video of the incident to show what led up to the arrest.
“The 30-second video looked very concerning, but when you look at the full video -- it’s a 10-minute video -- it shows the chase, the officers asking him to stop, the struggle, him going to the ground and his failure to hand over the stolen jewelry,” Moore said. “It showed when the officers tased him -- repeated times they warned him that he was going to be tased. It shows, for a number of minutes, the care the officers gave him after the fact to make sure he was OK. Ultimately, they got the stolen earrings out of his mouth, so it gave a complete account, not just showing officers tasing a black man on the ground.”
The officers also use electronic billboards to publicize information about wanted suspects. Moore said several arrests have been made from the billboards.
“We were looking for a wanted person and it was up on the billboard, and the person showed up at the police department and said, ‘I’m turning myself in, just get me off of that billboard,’” Moore said.
Online, the department uses Nixle, a site that distributes news from government agencies. The site also feeds to Facebook and Twitter and includes press releases about recent events, arrests, vehicle accidents and road closures. The department has more than 1,000 users signed up on Nixle.
“If you would want our press releases that’s where you would go to, and you can sign up for text messages or emails or you can go to Nixle.com and search for Janesville Police Department,” said Leslie Reid, administrative assistant for the Janesville Police Department. “That’s our primary means of pushing out all of the information.”
Moore said Nixle allows the police department to get information out to the public in a timely manner.
“On Nixle, if there’s a roadway that’s going to be closed, we’re pretty quick to get that information out,” Moore said. “If there’s any time-sensitive information, it’s a way for us to push it out.”
Press releases also can be viewed on the department’s website.
The department also uses Facebook to post information about community events, scam alerts and ongoing investigations. Residents can use the Facebook page to submit photos and information about wanted suspects.
“We do get tips to Facebook, and we reroute those to Crime Stoppers, so they can move forward on those investigations,” Reid said. “It’s a more convenient way for people to communicate if they want to share things on Facebook.”
The Facebook page has about 4,500 followers and is updated regularly.
“Some days, we put up three or four posts,” Reid said. “Usually at least every other day there’s something new on there. It is monitored on a daily basis. It’s not monitored 24/7, so we encourage people to call 911 if they have a pressing need, but we try to make it ... if someone sends us a message, we can reply within a day or two to get them the information they are looking for.”
The department also uses a new website called Raidsonline.com, which includes information about local service calls.
“The community can log on and see where officers are and what they’re doing,” Reid said. “If you saw an officer at a house in your neighborhood yesterday and you would like to know why they were there, you could go to the website and have a general idea of what the call was for. We’re sharing most of the information, but we’re not sharing information if it would identify a victim or a child that was involved.”
Social media has allowed the department to communicate with people of different age groups, Reid said.
“Previously, people got their information from the newspaper and television,” Reid said. “We’re definitely getting more feedback from the younger users, so we’re trying to reach out to all the different members of the community.”
Moore said the department will continue to look for more social media opportunities in the future.
“As technology changes, we’ll entertain that, but right now we’ve got a pretty successful tool for using social media,” Moore said. “I don’t think we’ve got anything planned on the forefront right now.”