“The police are the public, and the public are the police.” This quote by Sir Robert Peel sums up Captain Bobby Haulk’s philosophy of Community Policing. In Community Policing, individuals and the traditional police force partner together to make their communities safer.
And Haulk, who is the Assistant Chief, believes that social media-especially Facebook has allowed the Waxhaw Police Department to take Community Policing to the next level.
Partners in Crime… Stopping
One way social media has empowered Waxhaw individuals to partner with the police is by creating a platform where information on wanted individuals is easy to share. According to Haulk, “We’ve identified 20 or more people with warrants,” just from Facebook. And they frequently get tips on investigations.
Of course, Waxhaw is not an island. Facebook allows them to easily share information on wanted individuals with police departments from other counties. And Waxhaw returns the favor by sharing from other department pages as well. Haulk said that some community members have wondered why Waxhaw doesn’t post exclusively about Waxhaw news. His answer is that people who commit crime in a neighboring county don’t necessarily stay in that area. It’s good to be aware of what is going on around you.
Putting the “Social” in Social Media
Haulk pointed out that they also use social media for “social” purposes. “We don’t just put wanted people on there. We try to make it a good social information source. Special recognitions in the department. Community events.”
Two such community events are National Night Out, which is neighborhood specific, and the Citizens Academy. The Citizens Academy runs twice a year and is available to anyone who lives or works in Waxhaw, age 20 years and up. These citizens spend three hours a night for ten weeks learning what the police department does and why they do it. “The program goes from the hiring process to patrol, traffic, SWAT, and canine.”
Another favorite thing to share is pictures of people who bring food and desserts to the police station. “We’ll post their picture on there. We’re trying to be in touch with the community instead of behind this brick wall,” Haulk said. And in the spirit of keeping things light, he also enjoys sharing humorous memes and photos.
Find Me On Facebook
The Waxhaw Police Department would be most likely to say, “Find me on Facebook.” But that’s not the only platform they use. Haulk manages several accounts, “We use Facebook the most. We have Twitter and we use Instagram occasionally. We also post on Nextdoor.”
Although the Facebook page is updated regularly, there’s no particular strategy. Haulk tries to check it daily and stays as active as much as he can. Twitter often has the same content, but occasionally the two differ in what they share.
Haulk is dedicated. He monitors the accounts from home on the weekend. However, if someone posts something negative about the department, he won’t engage. Haulk says he doesn’t have to. “Usually the community comes to our defense.”
Haulk wanted to remind the public that while they do respond to a lot of direct messages online, “The accounts are not monitored 24/7. If you need an officer, don’t send it to Facebook, call dispatch. In an emergency call 911.”
The Waxhaw Police Department loves it when people share their posts. They also have some friendly rivalries going. Haulk mentioned they are trying to get more Facebook likes than Town Hall, so citizens should feel free to share that information and help them out with a click.
The police department has been on Facebook for about four years. When reflecting on the difference between then and now, Haulk said, “Our relationship with the community is more open and sincere. Authentic, good or bad, if it happens and it’s newsworthy, we’ll put it out there. “We want to be transparent, we want the community to know we work for them.”
Find the Waxhaw Police Department on Facebook under “Waxhaw Police Department,” on Twitter as @WaxhawPolice, and on Instagram @waxhawncpolice.