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Chicago Police Department Turns To Social Media As It Seeks To Repair Image

By Joe Ward | October 10, 2016 5:44am
 Sgt. Bob Kane and Officer Nicole Trainor appear in a Facebook Live video on the Chicago Police Department's page. The two News Affairs officers are leading the department's more proactive approach to social media.
Sgt. Bob Kane and Officer Nicole Trainor appear in a Facebook Live video on the Chicago Police Department's page. The two News Affairs officers are leading the department's more proactive approach to social media.
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Chicago Police Department

CHICAGO — As it works to repair its image in the city and nationwide, the Chicago Police Department has turned to social media to show the softer side of officers and police work.

The Police Department's Facebook and Twitter accounts have been increasingly more active, including daily Facebook Live videos showing officers meeting with residents, walking the beat and working crime scenes.

It's all part of an effort to paint a portrait of officers that is not often depicted in news media, Police Department officials said. Police also are hoping the effort helps repair relationships with Chicago communities that deeply mistrust the Police Department.

Anthony Guglielmi, the police spokesman who spearheaded the revamped social media operation, said the effort is part of Police Supt. Eddie Johnson's plan to "change the culture" of the Police Department.

"He is constantly challenging us to be more open and transparent," Guglielmi said. "We really want to engage the community in every way CPD can."

The strategy — which rolled out in mid-September — aims to show a more compassionate side of officers as well as highlight the realities of the job that make it dangerous, Guglielmi said.

With news from the Police Department being dominated by scandals and escalating violence, the videos and posts seeks to show officers doing their jobs despite all the outside noise, Sgt. Bob Kane said.

"We want the public to know what we do on a daily basis," Kane said. "It shows that we're approachable, that we're doing good things and [that] we're listening."

The Police Department has been seeking to boost its community policing ever since the city released video of Laquan McDonald's 2014 fatal shooting at the hands of police. McDonald's death led to massive protests, a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice and the ouster of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

An expanded and more proactive social media approach is just one effort to repair the standing of police with the community, department officials said. On Friday, the Police Department held "coffee with a cop" events in every district.

Kane and Officer Nicole Trainor, have been the faces and voice of the Police Department's social media pages. The two narrate many of the videos and often appear on camera, either introducing an event or interacting with the public.

They've worked to inject personality into the videos, and often refer to themselves with nicknames like Chicago Bob and Second City Nikki.

"We brought our own personalities to it, and it took off," said Kane, who along with Trainor, works in the Police Department's News Affairs Office.

Unlike much of an officer's daily work, the videos and social media posts are often lighthearted. Trainor said they are making an effort to respond to every Facebook comment to show officers are approachable and friendly.

The officers obliged a Facebook follower who wanted to see them with doughnuts, making fun of a police stereotype in the process. Ahead of the Cubs playoff run, the officers were outside Wrigley Field quizzing people on team trivia.

Trainor has even had to field a few date requests, Kane said.

"I like talking to people," Trainor said. "It tells us if we're doing something right or wrong. Overall, it's been extremely positive."

Some of the videotaped discussions between officers and the public do venture into heavier subjects.

In a recent sitdown with two Facebook followers at a North Side Dunkin Donuts, a mother-daughter duo told Kane and Trainor they'd not only like to see more police on patrol, but would like those officers to be more approachable.

Kane said they do not shy away from such topics on live video.

"We don't know what to expect when we approach someone," Kane said. "We say, 'Hey, we're going to ask you a few questions, be honest.' There may be swear words, negative comments."

Other times, Kane and Trainor have responded to crime scenes involving shooting victims and responded to calls for backup.

It's all a way for the public to learn about the Police Department beyond local and national headlines.

"We want to give a spotlight to what officers are doing to keep the city safe," Guglielmi said.

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