Special Report: Social Patrol Part 2

By Millaine Wells, Local 5 News

Published 05/08 2014 11:48AM

Updated 05/08 2014 11:59AM

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - A new poll shows 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone.

58 percent are smartphones.

Emergency officials know if they want to connect with the community, they have to go online.

Local 5 spoke with the president of the Three Corners Neighborhood Association in Green Bay about the topic.

Emily Jacobson often turns to social media to connect with local police.

"We follow their page and I get e-mails from them" she explains.

Jacobson regularly uses Facebook to share information with her 500 neighbors.

"We want to be able to get out to the neighbors if there was something going on. e-mail is not always the quickest way" she says.

"It is a really good tool because we do not see our neighbors like we used to. We push a button drive into our garages" Cheryl Williams, Board Member of the MacArthur Heights Neighborhood Association. 

Williams saw the power of social media in action in her neighborhood.

"There was some activity where they were looking for somebody in our neighborhood. They posted that and found him" she explains.

Emergency officials say it is a way to get the facts straight from the source and not the neighborhood rumor mill.

"If someone were to get bad information maybe about what we are doing at a scene, social media is where we can go to put out the official information from our department" says Fond du Lac Fire Chief Peter O'Leary.

Recently Green Bay's Police Chief took to Facebook, to address the community after video of an arrest went viral.

The post from the chief was liked almost 700 times - and received close to 400 comments.

Not all of them positive.

"Even when you have news that is not so good, I go to social media to push it out there because people know that no matter what you are going to give it to them straight. You are not going to hide from it when it is not good news" Chief O'Leary says.

"I just think there is far more value then there are negatives associated with it" says Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson.  

Community complaints are nothing new.

According to O'Leary "We have to be willing to accept that criticism when it comes. Whether its social media or someone sending anonymous letter, if you are a human being and proud of what you do it will always sting a little bit".

"A lot of people think that police officers are robots and we work for 8 hours then press a button and are put in a closet somewhere . It does not happen that way and we like to keep in contact with the citizens of Oshkosh" says Oshkosh Police Officer Joe Nichols.

Growing that connection, means posting daily and giving updates other than crime alerts.

"We love to see when they do a prescription drug take back. That ties in with our environmental focus of clean water" says Williams.

According to Nichols "you have to keep it light and airy. If you are  going to keep it on the negative all the time people are going to bypass your webpage".

With the number of followers growing daily,  local law enforcement continue to put more efforts on the "tweet beat". 

"It makes us feel like they are part of us and we are part of them. We feel like we have a better connection with people that way". says Chief O'Leary.  

If this series has inspired you to connect online with your local police and fire departments click here for a web extra with links to their social media pages.

You can see part one of the series here.

Copyright Copyright 2014 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.