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“Social media is the wave of the future. You have to be able to reach your audience. You have to figure out what the best way to do that,” said Apple Valley police Capt. Mitchell Scott, who, along with another officer, runs the department’s social media pages.
Larger departments active
Larger agencies have the advantage in being able to provide up-to-date information, said Brian Mueller, a commander in the investigations division of Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office, which patrols about 20 communities from Scandia to Denmark Township, has a Facebook page with 1,900 followers that is monitored by several sheriff’s employees.
A recent post applauded the “quick-thinking actions of local citizens who had seen ‘Washington County’s Most Wanted’ list on Facebook,” resulting in the arrest of a woman on outstanding warrants for burglary.
The agency is continuing to look at how other departments are disseminating information on Facebook and other social media channels, Mueller said, at a time when there are growing expectations of greater accountability and transparency of police departments.
In all, eight agencies in Washington and Dakota counties have Facebook accounts — the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Bayport, Cottage Grove, Forest Lake, Woodbury, Apple Valley, Lakeville and South St. Paul — and four that are on Twitter: Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan and Forest Lake.
Effective to engage
A 2011 Institute for Criminal Justice Education survey of police agencies found that nearly 79 percent of respondents were active on social media.
“When we have significant events, and we have the request for information that come, rather than responding for information individually, using social media such as Twitter allows us to communicate consistently with the media,” State Patrol public information officer Lt. Eric Roeske said. “Being a state agency, it works for us because of the number of media outlets we work with regularly and the need to communicate in a max way.”
Libor Jany • 651-925-5033