As people turn to more sources of information electronically, Cottage Grove police have named veteran officer Gail Griffith as the department's first-ever public information officer.
She's already known to many in the city as liaison officer at Cottage Grove Middle School and also community affairs officer for the department, assisting residents with National Night Out, Safety Camp and other police-related events.
And now, said Public Safety Director Craig Woolery, she's the department's point person for providing public information on matters ranging from arrests of fugitives to major public-safety incidents.
"Over the years, as technology has changed and all the different outlets have increased, we needed to change as well," said Pete Koerner, deputy director of public safety for the city. "People want instant updates whether it's television, newspaper, Internet and now social media. Officer Griffith will greatly help us to get information out."
Police in Woodbury and Oakdale also have public information officers. In other cities and in the Washington County Sheriff's Office, top commanders handle inquiries.
In Cottage Grove, Woolery said, it's a priority for police to have connections in the community.
And it's beneficial for both the public and news media to have one main representative for the police department, he said. Commanders have given out that information in the past, but as reporters clamor for news for the public, especially during critical incidents, that can be difficult.
"Having a PIO frees the command staff up to do their job dealing with a critical incident at hand," Woolery said.
"We understand that notification of the public's important; people want to know what's happening. But to have your command staff deal with those notifications and the incidents can be overwhelming. So a PIO can be critical in that sense."
Griffith is a patrol officer who serves as community affairs officer and also works 12 hours a week as school resource officer -- and that gives her flexibility to also fill this new role, too, he said.
"I'm excited for the new challenge," said Griffith, who joined the force 23 years ago. "I love working with people."
Griffith, 50, is married with three children. She lives in Cottage Grove.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038