CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Police Department is looking for a few fans and followers.
The police department has joined social media sites Facebook and Twitter (@CR_Police). After a soft launch to build up some sweets and posts, the department officially announced their social media presence this week.
Capt. Jeff Hembera, who heads up the department’s patrol division and was one of the members of the department who spearheaded the social media effort, said the department’s presence on Facebook and Twitter is in response to the changing ways in which people use media.
“I think we realized that Facebook, Twitter, the social media sites, they’re the way people are communicating, now more than ever,” Hembra said. “We were kind of missing a great opportunity to reach out to the public and get our message out.”
Rather than have one person manage the department’s social media sites, Hembera said there will be about 20 employees — officers, supervisors and dispatchers — with access to the Facebook and Twitter sites. That should allow for posts throughout the day and night and timely responses to people with questions. Hembera said the social sites will not be staffed all of the time and should not be viewed as a replacement for 911 or normal reporting systems.
Instead, Hembera views the sites as a means to engage in normal conversations, get information out to the public and hopefully get some feedback from citizens, as well.
For instance, Friday morning’s posts on both Twitter and Facebook warned that Blairs Ferry Road was closed for a period of time and that motorists should be aware of heavy fog.
“It’s real time information,” said Greg Buelow, the city’s public safety spokesman. “It provides people with a degree of more instantaneous knowledge of what’s going on.”
In addition to traffic conditions and other breaking news, Hembera said police will post crime prevention tips, information about upcoming classes for the public, or just updates on what the police department has been up to. Recent posts include photos from Thursday’s Shop with a Cop event and those honoring a recently retired officer.
While most posts are straight forward, some will be mixed with a little bit of humor. Hembera said that’s one more way police can build relationships with the community.
“People do realize we are like everybody else; that the same things that make them laugh make us laugh, too,” he said. “Occasionally, there will be a post now and again that will put a smile on faces.”
The police department will continue to interact with the public outside of social media. The department is hosting a Coffee with a Cop event on Thursday, Dec. 18 beginning at 9 a.m. at the Wilson Avenue Hy-Vee.