IT Pros Hear How APD Uses Social Media With Purpose
By Office of Communication
Posted on October 16, 2012, October 16, 2012

Experienced professionals who make a difference in Texas IT decisions gathered Monday in Arlington for the Digital Government Summit.

At the Arlington Hilton, Information Technology professionals from across the state exchanged ideas and explored new ways to look at old problems.

In a breakout session, Summit participants learned how Arlington city government is using technology in practical and powerful ways to engage the public and impact crime.

During a 45-minute presentation, the Arlington Police Department showcased the many benefits of social media. The department currently uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Nixle to educate, communicate and engage with its audiences.

Social media has become a fundamental method of everyday communications, said Sgt. Christopher Cook who heads up the APD Office of Communication.
During their presentation, Sgt. Cook and Officer Zhivonni McDonnell, who serves as the Social Media Coodinator, showed summit participants how the department uses Twitter to educate the public about police work from the front seat of a patrol car. During Tweet Alongs, the department shares text and photos as officers clear 9-1-1 calls for emergency service.

Social media is also used to educate, Sgt. Cook told workshop participants. Traffic Tip Tuesday and Fraud Tip Friday are among the public safety campaigns created for Facebook and Twitter. The Police Department uses social media to communicate traffic updates and breaking news. Tourism is promoted through social media as officers share photos that capture the fan experience when visitors from all over the world come to Arlington on game days.

When the search for a suspect or missing person is underway, APD depends on social media to mobilize people and community resources.
Workshop participants also learned how the department is giving the public access to officers using their computer or smart phone through a new program called Live Chat.

"A lot of people are interested in what the Arlington Police Department is doing,'said Officer McDonnell who has seen its contacts with the community nearly double over the past year. To date, the department has nearly 5,433 Facebook fans and more than 4,500 Twitter followers.

"Through social media, the Arlington Police Department is highlighting what's going on in the community,'Officer McDonnell said. "We're showcasing the diversity of our officers. We're present at community events and we're inviting lots of two-way communication.'

Eric Carter, from the City of Fort Worth Emergency Management Division, attended the social media session and said he heard some "excellent concepts.'
"The Arlington Police Department is doing a great job of trying to engage the public,'Carter said. "I think a lot of agencies can certainly learn from them. This type of communication has to happen!'

By Cheryel Carpenter

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