Since venturing into social media with a single Facebook post in January 2013, the Washington, Illinois Police Department (WPD) has rewritten the playbook of police/community relations with wit and good humor. Not only did the department notch a win for “Best Social Media Presence” in the 2017 Best of Peoria competition, its use of social media has helped build relationships with residents, allowing officers to address small issues before they become serious conflicts.
“Police officers normally contact people at bad times or in bad situations, so a social media outreach was about expanding that relationship to something positive,” notes Master Sergeant Jeff Stevens. More than mere entertainment, it’s an effective way to get their message across.
One recurring gag involves the “traffic trap,” a 2’x4’ mousetrap Stevens and his daughter made for a Halloween costume. “It’s a great image to let people know where we will have special traffic details,” he explains. This year, the oversized prop appeared in WPD’s annual 4/20 post, warning Cheeto-munching stoners that “we will be baiting the traffic trap with junk food… [so] stay safe… don’t smoke (or chew, or vape, or dab or anything else) and drive!”
When a tornado struck Washington in November 2013, WPD was the only part of city government on social media; its page quickly became a vital source for information amidst the crisis. The City of Washington has since joined Facebook and Twitter, “but in the interest of full disclosure, they aren’t nearly as funny,” Stevens deadpans.
With its hilarious, yet informative dispatches on Twitter (@Wash_IL_Police) and Facebook (@WashingtonPoliceDepartment), the Washington Police Department proves that a little humor does go a long way. a&s