The objective of Community Policing — indeed its true salvation — is the creation of direct contact with members of the Community. One of the significant challenges, however, is keeping the citizen involved once initial contact has been established. The following is one of several programs that will enable a department operating on a shoestring budget to contact citizens across the entire socioeconomic spectrum and keep them engaged for the long term.
Communication between police and the citizens they serve is an essential part of the modern police mission. Too often communication tends to be one-way, frequently in the form of citizens complaining about police or police informing citizens they have done something wrong. Rarely is the interaction something akin to strolling along on the sidewalk together, exchanging information and talking in “real time” about what we collectively observe.
Doing this sort of thing in these days of understaffed departments, stretched thin under shrinking budgets, is simply not practical.
An excellent program for communicating with the community is via a company called Nixle. By using Nixle, a Chief can utilize a computer or “smartphone” like a BlackBerry to type out an important alert, hit send, and have it immediately go out to the community in the form of an email or text message.
It is a beautiful way to get the word out, not just because is easy to use, but it is also free. Police departments can register with Nixle in less than five minutes and citizens can do the same in less than two.
Nixle charges the police department nothing to register and utilize their service. Likewise, there is no charge to individual citizens to register and utilize the service. The only possible charge to the citizen would be their cell phone provider’s charge for text messages. If text messaging charges should apply, the citizen can opt out of the text message portion of the service and receive the information by email only, if they desire.
Getting the Word Out
In a previous jurisdiction, I utilized the program, “Alert (name of town)!” I was able to send out immediate notification regarding missing children, Alzheimer’s patients who had wandered from their homes, warnings of con men working the area, notices of upcoming council meetings, fairs, and other public announcements. Nixle supplies free templates for fliers and posters, all of which can be easily be personalized to promote your own unique program or message.
In my current environment, forest fires and road closures due to falling rocks or mudslides are a very real and ongoing concern. To be able to send out instant notification of natural disasters in the making is a crucial and much appreciated service the police department can provide.
With a decent newspaper article, face-to-face contact with local groups and organizations, and the posting of fliers at local businesses, it won’t take long to get a sizable portion of your community “connected” with your department.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with some more ideas to help you continue your community policing efforts in tight economic times.
For more information about Nixle, click here.