Increasing Public Safety: Sharing Information the Public Wants, the Way They Want it

Michael Parker

Michael was recognized as a White House Champion of Change in Community Resilience and Preparedness. 

Many of us enter policing thinking the profession is all about enforcing the law.  But by handling thousands of arrests and seeing the jails fill, one's perspective evolves.  For me, preventing crime before it happens, building public trust, and reducing unnecessary fear have become the most rewarding successes.   

New eCommunications systems have brought dramatic changes to the public.  They quickly adopted these new technologies and have invited the government to be a part of the socialmedia program.  Although the new systems presented great opportunities for law enforcement and emergency services, many felt it was too difficult, a fad, or that we needed to first develop a thick handbook of rules.  Chief executives successful in eCommunications either empower a “knowledge-worker” to lead, or a few lead it themselves.  Nationally, examples of excellence and innovations in eCommunications range from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the American Red Cross and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media.  In 2009, Sheriff Leroy D. Baca empowered me to lead. 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has worked to become online partners with the County’s 10 million residents, other policing and firefighting agencies, and emergency services.  The LASD website was redesigned with LASD Nixle text and email messaging, as well as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest pages which were successfully implemented.  Because people, especially generationally, want information differently, over 100 LASD community-specific and topic-specific accounts were activated to complement LASD Headquarters messaging.

By working with the public – news media and emergency services agencies to use these systems for routine messaging and coordinating localized crises – we are also training ourselves for the inevitable bigger crises to come. 

To help make multi-agency participation easier, I have been awarded the privilege to make presentations to thousands of first responders at over 50 major conferences.  Meanwhile, we have provided 8-16 hours of formal training to over 1000 personnel from 150 agencies, including five foreign countries.  We accomplished this by working through the newly formed Electronic Communications Triage Unit of Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau (SHB eComm), California Peace Officers Association, and Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County.  Through training and joint handling of actual incidents (eMutual Aid), we are an increasingly cohesive multi-agency crisis management team, with the public as key team members. 

These new ways to communicate and coordinate directly with the public were impossible just a few years ago. Yet now they seem to be everywhere.  By engaging the community, we are increasing public safety, preventing and solving crimes, and reducing fear.  Alongside many excellent leaders, I am proud to be a part of the change and the solution.

Captain Mike Parker is the lead Public Information Officer and Unit Commander of Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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