The Washington County Sheriff's Office has made its debut on YouTube with an action-packed video. And it's getting attention.

From the agency's response to the 2008 Hugo tornado to a K-9 named Dozer, who died after collapsing on duty, the 18-minute video gives a peek inside the Sheriff's Office, its employees and their duties.

Take a virtual tour of the state-of-the-art technology at the communications center or check out the county jail. Or see scenes from SWAT and K-9 training. There are shots of sheriff's divers, officers paying tribute to fallen comrades and jailers who have their own version of an emergency response team.

The YouTube video is one of the newest ways that law enforcers nationwide are turning to social media for crime-fighting and strengthening police-community relations.

From Stillwater, Minn., to Richmond, Va., law enforcement agencies are using social media not only to communicate in real time about crimes but also for "the ability and the power to tell their own stories," according to an article this month in Police Chief magazine, published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

In Stillwater, the Washington County Sheriff's Office has been on Facebook for about two years, but this month it posted for the first time a video about the department on Facebook and YouTube, said Patrol Cmdr. Cheri Dexter.

"I like using the social media because that's where people are at; that's where they're paying attention," Dexter said.

Deputy Nick Sullivan spent more than four months making the video, mostly during quiet times between patrolling the Lower St. Croix Valley.

He produced it at the behest of his superiors for showing at the Washington County Fair, without ever figuring it would make YouTube. But Sullivan, 29, said he is glad people are enjoying it. The son of Oakdale Police Chief William Sullivan, he's been with the department for eight years and is among nearly 100 sworn officers.

The video shows the department's divisions, from corrections guards to dispatchers, all serving 58,800 residents in 14 cities and five townships.

"It's waking up people to our department and who we are," Sullivan said.

"People see our cars every once in a while ... But people really don't know what the sheriff's office is and how big we are, how much we cover and how many residents we serve."

He enjoyed videotaping fellow employees and K-9s and setting those images and photos to music. But Sullivan had no time to grab his camera when he was flagged down by a frantic man recently at a Woodbury gas station and found himself delivering a baby boy named Gabriel Nicolet.

"That was awesome," the deputy said. "Without a doubt, that was the greatest thing I've ever seen or done."

You'll just have to take his word for it since his camera wasn't rolling.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038