Webinar presenter Corey Yunke answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Fostering and Maximizing Your Agency’s Community Engagement. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Does your police department has a community engagement unit like some more than just you in your department and are there many civilian employees such as social workers also involved in that unit?
Corey Yunke: That definitely verifies from agency to agency. We just don’t have a defined unit. I am the sole kind of person that coordinates that in my title Community Relations Coordinator, but there is an expectation that all of our officers are to participate with this. With that, all of our officers, I wouldn’t say mandated, but they are expected to get at least 2 what we call CEOs – Community Outreach Event. That can range from, just talking with the gas station attendant, just to see what’s happening there. Just something as big as last night, we did an ice cream social. I am coordinating that side. So, there is an expectation to get it done. I think with that finding the right personalities to do that – not everybody is great at this. It takes a certain personality and background. So if you are a supervisor, I recommend looking into those strengths of character of people who are relatable. And those that aren’t so great, they’re better at something else, keep them focused on that.
Audience Question: Just a clarification, you were hired into an existing community relations position, is that right?
Corey Yunke: Correct
Audience Question: How then would you advise folks on how to convince their leadership to start a new position? How do you convince your agency to this position, like the one you were hired into and clearly your agency has already decided this was important – how do you get your agency to understand that this position is important and to form that position? What would be your advice?
Corey Yunke: I think we talked to with management, they’re going to look for that cost and value and without that, the go-to is finding other agencies that are doing it and seeing what’s working and seeing if is this applicable to my agency. And if not, sometimes good conversation comes from that – how can you start smaller? Can you get just a number of hours or can you get overtime pushed towards this or can you get a budget line for, even $500 to do 1 engagement event per year to see the value it, see where it’s to come through. Try to find an agency that looks similar to yours and it’s working and have them do the talking for you but I think it varies from agency to agency and there’s always the money element to it as well.
Audience Question: It kind of builds on something you said a few minutes ago. You know there’s always those officers who don’t quite see why these community engagement activities are important or how they make a difference is better. How have you educated your officers to understand the importance of these differences and you actually made a comment that I want to key in on. You talked about your agency – there’s an expectation that your officers are expected to do these activities. Have you actually tweaked your hiring processes to make sure your new hires match the mission of your agency?
Corey Yunke: I would say yes but not always as intentional. I think I see the difference of some of our officers that have been here for a while and our new breed of officers coming in, they’re starting to see this classes of policing the community. And even though community police is a topic for a long time in academia. I think, as you see it, the officers involved in shootings and some of the distrust that happens in certain agencies kind of pushes that forward definitely. I do see it easier with kind of those that are just getting in the law enforcement where it is not as surprising for us taking sometimes in of an older officer, encouraging them I think, it gets away through the, a different sometimes. They really have to see it. It’s kind of looking at that example to Northeast Youth and Family Service putting that time in and actually having that patience and trust that you’re going to be able to harvest something from it. And it comes out in different ways. For example, the officers that are there at that basketball game, are playing, they didn’t see the council meeting with Northeast Youth and Family Service comes up and talks about that and how great of an event it was. So they don’t see that a luncheon where there’s it has a lot, a room filled with local business executives that see us playing basketball and they are smiling and it goes inside their memories as far as they look and that’s being a bit more community forward. So it’s tough, it’s easy for me because I see it and I’m working with the community often. But for day to day officers, I give them a lot of credit. It’s tough to see when you’re doing the day to day stuff, and you get that 3000 and 10,000 and 30,000 level of you. You can kind of see more than just right on the street. We would do have a question as far as, it’s not necessarily as our questions and interview it’s requiring. RCSO they have to speak one of our above English, they have to speak one of our top 5 languages primary languages for that and or have extensive experience working in a community. That expectation comes from the beginning as well. That’s been for about 10 years now.
Audience Question: You talked about your collaboration with NYFS, how long did it take to get that position that you described the one that the organization was hiring for? How long did it take to get that position finally to come to fruition?
Corey Yunke: We saw this increase and we worked with other organizations involving mental health. Probably 4 years ago, we are really starting to seeing this spike of attempted suicides and suicides. It became more of a national discussion than just a law enforcement discussion. We started there and the first thing that police departments go for generally is get more officers to handle this, because we need more officers but as it started getting more refined and getting some having council defense reasons why not – and even that’s not the best person to a response, a person in uniform and trying to get to that root cause of it, is where that discussion came. Once we had the idea to work with NYFS it was as simple as our chief talking with the executive director and mulling it about. The hardest part really is getting the money of finding the funding for it. So in this case, we actually worked with 3 if not 4 law enforcement agencies, we’re all sharing this community case manager, where we kind of split that and it’s good lesson I think for smaller agencies or mid-size agencies in collaboration and trying to get around that almighty dollar of how we can stretch it.
Audience Question: How would do you decide how you post a heartwarming post versus an educational, versus something funny? Do you have any strategies you can share?
Corey Yunke: I am still learning as I go and everybody else can definitely email me with tips but I think it depends sometimes on – part of it is looking at each individual platform. So Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and looking at a kind of what I’ve gathered the comment person kind of look and hit about 9 posts give or take. So that 9 posts that it hit you and slide about 9 and switch on to somebody else’s. So within that 9 or can call it between 5 and 10, you can kind of show them diversity of what you’re doing with what mission statement.
For me, I’m definitely on the community relations side, so I’d like to push as much positivity as I can that becomes an imbalance where we also want to show the value and we also want to alert that our officers are doing some hard work. it’s not as much as how frequently and as it really is where you post it an what your audience likes to see. Our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audiences are different as is our Listserve and Nextdoor.com that is local to your geography. So I try to keep it mostly positive but still, you got to throw in here and there the constant drugs post on there without alarming the citizens they want to move out of your city for that reason. I think it really depends on your audience and your geography but a good healthy balance is good for those 9 posts so they can see what you up to and not just think “Our community are all guns and drugs.”
Audience Question: How do you measure impact? Is there a report that you do that quantifies all the activities that you do in the year? Can you provide some insights on that?
Corey Yunke: We got in the social media 6 years or so since I started. We’re not this huge – we’re definitely by no means an influencer. We are just kind of a normal department. The size of our followers isn’t that astronomical. We don’t. We’re small enough, we probably should. If I had more time we would have this report and kind of compare and have a benchmark and something to reach for but, it’s kind of public sentiment… a lot of it. Our indicators as far as you know more of trust. We opened up certain channels. Are we getting a lot more feedback for using those channels to talk with us? That’s a big thing the accessibility. Are people leaning on us and asking more questions and finding us there? It’s tough to quantify. I think it’s more of qualifying of anecdotally kind of seeing, who shows up, who’s talking more? I was encouraging at meetings, outreach, and engagements to if you like what we’re doing contact the mayor, contact the city manager, contact the chief, we want to hear this. And that’s where we start a little bit more quantifiable. X amount of emails, x amount of praise and on the negative side, as far as the other side of receiving negative sentiments and that we want to hear. It’s a tough science, outreach, and engagement especially when you’re not selling a product or widgets, not seeing an increase in profit margins going up but yet public trust and sentiment, it’s really hard to gauge.
Audience Question: How do you learn about the ethnic makeup of your citizens in your jurisdiction? Do you have any tips on how to get that data?
Corey Yunke: Most people would go right to the census and look at the demographic and it’ll tell you a breakdown of who they choose and who responds. But for me, I know that Roseville is a lot more diverse than what demographic show because it’s not just residents who live in this address, it’s who’s visiting the mall, it’s who’s using the highways, it’s who’s using our vibrant park system. So really if you put that glass dome over your city at a given time, it’s different. It’s different at 7 AM as it is at 2 AM or midday. It’s just different, it’s covered by our hotels, our good hotels might be different, our bad hotels. So it’s tough, It’s kind of relying on your officers and what you’re seeing and being out in the community. You have to get out of your desk and off the seat and just go out and see, go out and have lunch in the different part of town go and sit by a bus stop for half an hour and kind of see. We used to do that on finding days of getting an idea of who’s in an area back before. It’s kind of my urban finding days of sitting at a park bench and seeing who gets off the bus, who gets on the bus, who walks by, who bikes by. It’s kind of that street-level that data checking.
Audience Question: How do you identify new opportunities for new types of community engagement activities?
Corey Yunke: It’s definitely no secret. I work a smaller suburban agency so I kind of look at the big cities to see what they’re doing. Sometimes they have a little bit more – they have more resources, maybe not relatively, they’re a bigger city. But sometimes there’s a generally a hotter topic going on there than with us. I kind of see what they’re going at and really with the internet and with social media, you can dive in and do some poaching, see what other people are doing, see if it’s working and steal their ideas. It’s all kind of public domain and I think we are all doing it for the better to reach out for the right reasons. So I think it’s just a matter of watching out and looking for trendy stuff. Fidget Spinners were pretty cool 3 years ago and now they’re in everybody’s junk drawers so it’s making sure we don’t end up being one of those that’s going to be online and out there in people’s memories forever. That’s taking those risks. just not being afraid to – as long as it’s safe and not going to be expensive. We’ve had duds, we’ve had ideas where we thought is going to be great and attendance was poor and we talked to them afterward and yeah this was kind of wasted time, I came here because of the free food. That’s not what we really want. Don’t be afraid to take some risks and innovations but then take note and make it bigger, leaner, stronger, cheaper the next time.
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