The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

Exploring the Intersection of Social Media, Public Relations and Law Enforcement with Katie Nelson

November 21, 2023 Katie Nelson Season 6 Episode 116
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
Exploring the Intersection of Social Media, Public Relations and Law Enforcement with Katie Nelson
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The CopDoc Podcast - Season 6 - Episode 116
Have you ever wondered how the intricate world of social media and public relations intertwine with law enforcement? Let’s unravel this with guest, Katie Nelson, from the Mountain View California Police Department. Katie moved from a career in journalism to managing social media and PR for the police force. She navigates the digital landscape of Silicon Valley, keeping accurate, timely communication with the community and efficiently managing the risks of online posting.

Our discussions took us on a journey into Katie's transition from journalism to policing. Her tales from her ride-along with a Narc unit, witnessing a friend and fellow officer wounded in the line of duty, and investigating the Speed Freak Killers. We delved into the crucial role of home security footage in police work and the unexpected challenges it can pose.

The conversation turned toward the future of law enforcement as we explored the implications of artificial intelligence. Katie shared some fascinating insights about the potential pitfalls of AI and how Mountain View PD is approaching this emergent technology. If you're curious about the intersection of social media, public relations, and law enforcement, this episode is a must-listen. It's not just about the nitty-gritty of police work, but also about the humanity behind the badge.

Contact us: copdoc.podcast@gmail.com

Website: www.copdocpodcast.com

If you'd like to arrange for facilitated training, or consulting, or talk about steps you might take to improve your leadership and help in your quest for promotion, contact Steve at stephen.morreale@gmail.com

Intro:

Welcome to the Cop Doc podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The cop doc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience. Welcome to The CopD oc Ppodcast Podcast

Steve Morreale:

Hello again everybody. Steve Morreale, coming to you from Boston and you're listening to the cop doc podcast. Today we are again bi-coastal a conversation. On the other end of the line is Katie Nelson and she's in California right now. Hello, Katie.

Katie Nelson:

Hi, how are you?

Steve Morreale:

I'm great. So it's in the afternoon there, just pressing noontime. It's three out here on the east coast and I came upon you because of the things that you're writing Very, very interesting things that you're writing using social media, and ironically, you are the social media and public relations coordinator for Mountain View, California Police Department. So you're a California girl.

Katie Nelson:

Yes, through and through.

Steve Morreale:

Okay, that's good. So let's talk about how you ended up in a police department, when this probably was not on your mind, but talk about going to college and the kind of reporting that you were doing and tell the audience about that.

Katie Nelson:

At a very early age I realized I like to tell stories and so I went to college and from Orange County originally and did a complete 180 and went to University of California at Berkeley for three years and fell in love with journalism and ended up out in wine country, which out here in California is basically the Napa area and decided. Napa, sonoma area, this town of Lodi and then the city of Stockton, which is where I was based and was brought in at 22 to be the wine business reporter and I wanted to cover higher education. I came from that environment so that's what I was comfortable with. Had no idea about wine country wine business, anything like that. I wasn't a wine drinker at the time. And about three months into my stint out there, my editor calls me in and he says you're going to be the new cops and courts reporter. And I said no, I'm not. And he said no, yes, you are. Like I did not have a say. And that day, a few hours after that conversation, there was a train that hit a car that had been parked on the tracks. A woman attempted to kill herself and her daughter who was sitting in the back seat and just by happenstance, I beat the police to the scene and I'm standing there and they had the firefighters had. They were taking care of the young girl. She was about five and the woman was, didn't have a scratch on her and she started running at me and I was about I don't know 10 feet in front of me and out of nowhere comes this arm and just stops her in her tracks, basically clothes, lines her and then wraps me in a bear hug and it was a believe you. As a sergeant at the time I think he retired as a captain or as a lieutenant Dave Nelson was his name and he turned around and he goes you okay, kid. And the woman was screaming she understands, she gets it. She's in my Bible study group and all I could say in the moment was I don't go to church and that was all they needed. And I caught the bug. I went on a ride along a short while later and fell in love with the profession and I knew I needed to join it in some capacity. I remember calling my parents at the time and I said I think I want to go into law enforcement. I was told no, you went to college.

Steve Morreale:

Oh, that's horrible. There's plenty of college educated police officers.

Katie Nelson:

My mom from the East Coast, my grandparents grew up in Boston and we're family of military, so it was. I was a little devastated, but not deterred, and came out to the Bay Area stuck with the public safety beat it is. It was my favorite thing to do. I built some beautiful relationships with some police agencies both out in the Central Valley and then out here in the Bay Area and found out that you could basically be a reporter for a police department as the PIO and a civilian capacity ended up getting hired here eight years ago and never looked back.

Steve Morreale:

The rest is history. Well, that's interesting and that's such a. It's really unusual. The way people, the way you're looking at it, your life will turn. And how am I doing a podcast and how did that come about? And how are you doing social media and public relations for a police department? When we talked before we came on, I said so how is that mountain view?

Katie Nelson:

And you said it's tiny, it's in the heart of Silicon Valley, though, like we have this this phrase just everything kind of comes back to mountain view. There are things that are happening all over the country and inevitably because of who is here in our city you know these little companies like Google, apple, facebook, microsoft inevitably something always comes back here, and so we're kind of the little town with the big footprint, so I'm very lucky to work in this community, but I also get to see a lot of interesting stuff, despite the fact that we are considered a small to medium sized agency.

Steve Morreale:

That's great. Well, yeah, why don't you describe that for a minute? Because people are listening from all over the world and we're talking to Katie Nelson. She is the social media and public relations coordinator for Mountain View, California Police Department, which is out in the Silicon Valley. So talk about that. How many people are on that police department?

Katie Nelson:

So we have 96 torn and then about 100 or about 50 odd or 60 odd professional staff, and so we're about 160 strong all together, which you know 80% of the country is small to medium-sized agencies, so we fall right in that sector. But what's so fascinating is that Mountain View we are one of 16 or 17 in the United States, so we often get confused for other mountain views, but we are at quite literally the heart of Silicon Valley and despite the fact that the 10th largest city is about 15 miles away from us in the country, san Jose a lot of the tech world exists in Mountain View. We're only 12 square miles, so we are a very small city by comparison, but we have some very, very heavy hitters in terms of people who bring in business, people who bring in awareness and attention to the city, and with that comes some fascinating police investigations and footprints in the law enforcement.

Steve Morreale:

As you described, the many organizations that call Mountain View home. You're talking meta and you're talking about Google and these are things that sort of drive social media. And in talking to some people on the podcast before, it is hard to understand for many, including many people who are senior in policing, to realize that most people today do not rely on TV or on radio or on print. They rely on social media, and I know that you know this quite well. But tell me your point of view and how important it is for an agency to tell its story.

Katie Nelson:

Well, I think what a lot of law enforcement agencies need to understand is that social media is not a nice to have anymore, it's a necessity. We are hitting almost a threshold of 100% utilization of smartphones in this country, so it's just the nature of the beast. More people are inclined to use social media to get news or information than they are to go into a building to read a newspaper, to watch TV or to listen to the radio to get news. They're going where they prefer to communicate, and that's normative behavior for a large number of the generational groups that we have in this country. Even Facebook it's for old people 55 and over are the fastest growing demographic on that platform, and that's at 50% of people that use Facebook at least. And it's just. If we are not in that space, if we are not making an effort to be present in places, even if we're not comfortable using them, our voices are going to become obsolete, this national narrative that has kind of dominated the viewpoint or the umbrella assumption of what law enforcement is and is not in this country over the last couple of years. That will persist if law enforcement agencies don't make an effort and designate someone in that capacity to help tell the story of their agency. There are 18,000 different policing departments in this country so that means there's technically 18,000 different ways that a law enforcement agency could be to its community and we're not a monolith right and we're not a monolith like the military. But that means there's also 18,000 different stories that are out there. Minimally that doesn't include all of the women and men that serve and what they bring to the badge and what they bring to this very noble line of work and we would be remiss if we didn't take that opportunity. We can't rely on others to tell that story.

Steve Morreale:

There are so many great stories that never make it out and yet I mean, obviously, one of the things that I use an awful lot is LinkedIn and Facebook to a degree, but when you think about it ex Twitter, now ex, I'm not sure what we call what a tweet will be in the future. I have no idea, but you'll be the first to tell us, I'm sure. But whether it's Instagram, a TikTok, facebook or whatever, what are you using? You're so many people my kids included, and they're in their 30s rely on alerts. They rely on something to notify you on your phone, because you have it all of the time as to what's going on. I know, and I'm sure towards the end of your period of time in the print media, that very often you had to wait for the deadline to get your story in, for it to be printed, and if you didn't start tweeting or using some way to get information out immediately, someone was going to beat you to the punch. True.

Katie Nelson:

Oh yeah, and it's fascinating, especially how ex or Twitter, whatever you want to call it is used, at least here in the Bay Area. Four out of five journalists use that platform to gather news, so they don't have the time or resources to be able to deploy to a scene to call a watch commander or a PIO to gather information and wait for the story. It's all about the race, it's all about getting ahead, and so social media is where that really begins to culminate into the first iterations of a story, whether or not it's accurate, and social media moves so fast that something that's reported two hours ago is not necessarily going to be what is reported now.

Steve Morreale:

The facts are changing constantly Right, right, right.

Katie Nelson:

Oh yeah, and the nature of the beast is such that if you're not out there, it's. When I teach, I say has anybody ever seen Talladega night? And Ricky Bobby has his famous line. He says if you're not first, you're last. And that's exactly how it is in society right now, with news consumption and the use of social media and the funneling that exists on those platforms when it comes to gathering and consuming and digesting news.

Steve Morreale:

So you're doing an awful lot and you've become involved with the IACP. I've been a member since 1978. You just stepped aside as the chair of the PIO section and that kind of puts you in the driver's seat about what's going on all across the world. Really. And I want to talk about this position. Were you the first to hold this position for this department? How did that come about?

Katie Nelson:

No, I was the second. So my former chief, who's now the under sheriff in San Mateo County, was kind of an early adopter of social media and he realized that social media was being used at the time predominantly as a one way push of information. People were just kind of taking in content and he was able to justify to have a position doing this full time. Because often when if this is a collateral assignment, for example when something does happen in a community there are the needs of the residents and then there's the needs of the department, which is to keep the residents safe first and foremost. It's very difficult to balance both worlds if your job first and foremost is to be a cop, and so he was able to justify creating a professional staff position for this. There was a woman in it prior to myself for about a year and a half and then I had met her for coffee as a reporter to cover Silicon Valley crime in particular, and at the end of an hour coffee she said would you ever want to do this job? And I kind of giggled and I said, oh sure you know why not, like it sounds great. Four months later she gave me a call and she said I'm leaving the jobs yours if you want it, and so I came in as on like a trial basis for six months.

Steve Morreale:

And they weren't sure they could trust you just yet.

Katie Nelson:

I was 25. I was a baby. I wouldn't trust me either and fell in love, and it's been a heck of a ride so far, and I, you know, love every day.

Steve Morreale:

So let's talk about this job and what kind of advice that people can garner from this conversation. Social media, mountain View. What is your process? What do you do routinely?

Katie Nelson:

The most difficult thing about social media regardless of whether you have somebody in this position, that this is their job is productivity finding those stories. As you said, a lot of the good stories don't come out. This is a humble bunch that you work with, regardless of where you are. And finding the stories, finding the processes to explain the nuances, to describe what makes your department different or how things are done in Mountain View compared to Boston, it's all opportunity, and so finding the subject matter experts within the department to talk about that, finding even people who are willing to have their photo taken, to have that humanity, to the story of having people see people like them. That's our day to day really. And then, if it bleeds, it leads. That's the old adage and it continues to exist. So, of course, everything pivots when news does happen or when you know a circumstance requires the attention from a public safety perspective.

Steve Morreale:

I have the opportunity of seeing you on video and I'm seeing a board behind you and it says topics now without giving up the ship. What is that list for?

Katie Nelson:

So that list is things that when patrol officers in particular go out into the community and they're at a scene or they're just driving around, you know, doing their patrol checks, or they're walking their beats, those are topics that people bring up, that they have questions about, and so that is basically our idea board for the month of things that we have prepared.

Steve Morreale:

What are these? Are the things that being fed to you from officers about the concerns of the areas of interest from the citizens. Is that fair?

Katie Nelson:

Yes, and it's something either that I'll see. I'm reading the logs and I noticed that we have something called community relations calls. So people will or they'll, go out and they'll have conversations with community members. It's through events or it's, you know, our patrol officers practically coming into my office and saying this is what we got asked a lot about over the last week. I don't know, have you heard anything about that? And like today is World Senior Citizens Day, guess what we're probably going to be doing posts about ways to protect senior citizens from scams. You know, those are all topics that come about and things that we plan out. We have, quite literally, a content calendar that we look at and think of where we can connect with our audiences and educate them and inform and create conversation.

Steve Morreale:

So do you also serve as the PIO, I presume?

Katie Nelson:

I do so I have the ultimate millennial job. I sit on the internet for 10 hours a day at least and engage and converse with audience members, but then I also serve in the traditional PIO rule where media inquires about incidents or cases. If we have a major event, I'm out and serving as the conduit between the journalists and the police department. That I have a kind of a multifaceted and very dynamic role.

Steve Morreale:

I understand that position very well. For several years I was the PIO for the Drug Enforcement Administration up here in New England.

Katie Nelson:

So lucky you.

Steve Morreale:

Well, no, no, I enjoyed it and I missed it when I gave it up, but it certainly is helpful and you begin to understand what you can say and what you shouldn't say. But I want to go back to this social media, because this is very intriguing to me and, I hope, to everybody else, and that is if you don't have a footprint, then you're leaving people behind. You know, a lot of people are relying on social media for information about its police department. What's going on instead of getting 75 calls? Hey, I heard a siren coming down the street and I saw some police cars what's going on there? And I you know that people make these kind of calls. They want to know what's going on in my neighborhood.

Katie Nelson:

Good. The biggest issue is when we get our dispatch flooded with calls about power outages. It's very real.

Steve Morreale:

What is it? When is it coming back and what yeah, I'm out Do you know and can you call the power company? I understand all of that stuff, but in terms of what Mountain View and what you do getting the message out, what do you use?

Katie Nelson:

We have a pretty solid toolkit. We have Facebook. It is the most popular platform in the world 3 billion with a B active monthly users. Twitter or X or whatever it is. That's still a valuable commodity for our journalists, so we know that that's where our reporters are for the most part. Next door is our hyper local connectivity.

Steve Morreale:

We never even heard that. Yes, I use it myself.

Katie Nelson:

Yeah, we care about that greatly because that's the audience that no offense to anyone else that may be listening to this, but they're the audience that matters most. Those are our residents. And then Instagram and Snapchat are our last two and those are very visually compelling platforms to us to kind of tell the story from pictures worth a thousand words kind of mentality.

Steve Morreale:

I want to ask you this question what's the secret to pump stuff out on multiple platforms?

Katie Nelson:

There's tools out there. I know there are. Don't use them.

Steve Morreale:

Okay, good, so you don't rely on them.

Katie Nelson:

No, I don't. I believe in native posting. For all platforms social media, the language platforms, the dialects everyone's going to have something a little bit different and they're all competitors. So if you have links on one platform that lead them to another platform, facebook's not going to like that. You're sending folks to Twitter or next door, and, especially with the way that the platforms are continually evolving, they often lock you out or you have to have an account to be able to sign in, and so I don't want to limit our audiences from being able to see our content. So I take the time to be able to post individually to all of the platforms, and that also really mitigates a lot of the potential risk management issues that we have in the event that we have a major incident involving, let's say, an officer, or there is a critical event that has garnered a lot of media attention. That is a national story. I don't want to look insensitive because we are posting about our fluffy canines and there's a community reeling from a traumatic incident.

Steve Morreale:

Oh, I see. So if you had timed something like that right, yeah, yes, it would be dispassionate if you did that, or at least that somebody could say you're in the middle of this and you're talking about yeah, fluffy, we try and have a high EQ. Well, that's good. I appreciate that. So your job, let's talk about how you grab your stories. Your role is in command staff meetings. What access you have to the players at the time before a crisis or in the middle of a crisis?

Katie Nelson:

So my role if this was not a critical incident, is I have full access to the department. I go and I will work with officer, sergeants, detectives, whomever to call together the information that I am trying to use to create a post and then, based on my knowledge of how journalism works typically, whatever the media cycle is here, I try and time it appropriately so that if I would like to potentially get coverage, I time it well enough I am a member of command staff and that I go to command staff meetings. Like I said, I'm not sworn, though, so I am professional staff.

Steve Morreale:

But you have a seat at the table right, I do. You have to, you have to Right Go ahead.

Katie Nelson:

Oh, thank you. And then in a critical incident, I report directly to a captain, so I'm one, basically one step removed from the chief. And so in a critical incident, ideally I sit in the command post with the chief and either the primary incident commander or the captain and we assess what information goes out, what that process looks like, how often we're posting to try and quell the rumor mill, make sure that the stakeholders within the city are taken care of and also that our community is informed, and we ride that wave until the conclusion of the event. Sometimes it's a fairly quick process and we get to that kind of that settling in a few hours. It could run all day that we've had incidents where we've been running at 16 hours and it's still going. So it's a commitment for sure, especially under my former chief, chris Chung. He understood that there was this delicate but symbiotic balance that existed between community information, public safety and the care and feeding of all of the players involved to ensure that everybody felt that they had access to us, that they were updated regularly and that their concerns or their questions were addressed in an appropriate and efficient manner. That's a very delicate balance to try and maintain.

Steve Morreale:

So we're talking to Katie Nelson and she's out in Mountain View, california, with the police department. She is the social media and PR coordinator and the PIO and, in fact, as you are balancing all of these things, what I had said earlier and one of my pet peeves is, if you're going to have a footprint using social media for a police department whether you're a department of three, 25 or 5,000, you have to keep it current, and that's a very, very difficult job to do. And one of the things that I do in classes that students sort of like and the first thing I do is I want you to go to your hometown, I want you to look at the website for the police department and critique it, look at its social media, tell me if it's up to date, tell me if the information you're looking for is there. What's missing? If you were a consultant, what would you tell them that people like yourselves want to know about? And it's quite funny because in some cases, you say they've got Facebook and they have, I guess, instagram and they haven't updated it for two weeks. So once we do it, I think you know I do it too. I'm looking for somebody. I'm going to look it up just a general web search. If I don't find it in the first time, I'm just going to move on to somebody else. Either keep me posted with information or I'll find somebody else. So tell me how you keep that up to date.

Katie Nelson:

I will say people are two things they're dramatic and they're lazy. If they have to read a lot or if they have to go searching for something, you're going to lose those valuable basically that trust, those deposits in the bank of community trust. And so ensuring that our community has regular and timely information, that's my primary job. So at least five days a week I am ensuring that we have something posted on social media for them to have access to, be it something about the department or an incident itself that occurred in the community that we think is of interest. I have a lot of responsibility in terms of determining what constitutes a case or an incident of note, but also just being present on those platforms. It's called social listening. That's huge because if the longer people have to wait to hear from you, the more they're going to fill in the gaps themselves or, like you said, they're going to go to another source of information that may or may not have accurate, reflective content or information of what we are doing, what is going on. It happened yesterday. We had a homicide in our community, first one this year. Knock on what. Hopefully it's our last. But people were going and asking their neighbors. They were on other platforms talking, and if I hadn't been able to see that and engage and follow up, who knows where that story could have gone. But being able to inform the investigators, the command staff and others about what was happening and what people were talking about on platforms like Nextdoor, on platforms like Ring, on platforms like Facebook, that was huge because that sets in motion hey, we're on a ticking clock here, we need to keep up. If we don't keep up, we're going to become obsolete. If we become obsolete, we're going to get ignored. And if we get it ignored, that's it, our status, and it's very much a status symbol of being a primary source of information. It takes 1,000 good experiences to build that up. It takes one bad experience to tear it all down. I didn't want it to be, and I don't ever want it to be, one instance that we basically lose the trust and the faith of our community.

Steve Morreale:

That's a big job and a big responsibility, certainly what has happened over and over again and as we watch events unfold. The use of video evidence both from city or municipal sources, but also from you said Ring, from cameras on people's houses. How important is that and how important is that in some of your messaging?

Katie Nelson:

It's huge the more advanced technology becomes, not just in the social media realm but in the realm of home security footage. Solving crimes and having that be able to recognize an individual because of clear footage from home security cameras has been huge. It also helps us better piece together what exactly happened. There is always going to be good old-fashioned police work. You figure it out. The way that society has evolved and the way that technology has evolved can only help enhance that further. And so being able to ask for things like that and have that community, have that vested interest in keeping their city safe, that's just an added bonus of this outreach that we can have in a digital space. We're not going to necessarily be able to do that by going door to door. That takes time, that takes effort that we may or may not have. But social media is expedites that process exponentially and it allows us to reach far more people than we would be able to if we were walking door to door and our one officer and our one sergeant would be able to accomplish.

Steve Morreale:

So is Katie Nelson adapting to AI.

Katie Nelson:

Not at this time. No, because I don't know enough about it. Am I doing research on it? Absolutely, but the biggest concerns much like TikTok, this has been a conversation in our city is the access, the understanding of the software and privacy concerns. So those three things. I unfortunately don't get to make any of those decisions on whether or not we use those. Use those, but the conversations around that are happening. I'll be curious to see, with AI in the next six months to a year, how fast it evolves, what good it is doing for society and where the pain points or pitfalls are.

Steve Morreale:

I was just going to say what the pitfalls are. Yeah, good, good, good. I think the same myself, as an outsider that's becoming insider professional staff, but nonetheless a member of this police organization. What were the changes of views that you had coming from the outside as a reporter and now being on the inside to see behind the curtain?

Katie Nelson:

Time. Time is totally different inside versus outside. When I would be at a scene as a reporter, I'd be looking at my watch and I'd be like God, they are taking forever. That on the inside is like you blink and suddenly it's two hours later. Time is so warped and you never have enough of it inside the tape. I'll use that at most people's stand outside the tape versus inside the tape. Inside the tape, things are moving so fast and things are so chaotic, even if it doesn't seem like it or if you have a process in place. Outside the tape it feels like an eternity waiting. That doesn't excuse a law enforcement agency's ability to communicate, though. There are still things that can be done, efforts that can be made to at least update with what you can, whether or not the investigation itself is, in, whatever phase it is, you can still share information and not jeopardize the integrity of what your detectives are trying to handle or your patrol officers.

Steve Morreale:

So that's good, and rather than saying no comment, here's what we can say and here's what we can't at the time, and here's the reason we can't. And I think what you're trying to be is transparent, my guess and to answer the questions that you can and to be honest about those that you can't, because Exactly how do you approach that?

Katie Nelson:

I tell people it's okay to say I don't know, but as a public servant, it's our job to be able to follow up with. But I'll find out for you and establishing those parameters or those boundaries, either with your community or with your reporters, about when they can expect an update, what that update could potentially entail, what a process of an investigation looks like or what they can or cannot reveal. Because, at the end of the day, something else that I learned was you know, everybody's got constitutional rights to a fair and impartial jury of their peers. Journalists are constantly hungry for the last little bit of tidbit of information that they can, you know, share with their readers. But, as our duty in law enforcement, we can't take the jury pool. There are certain things that should be found out throughout the process of, you know, the judicial process, not necessarily in a press release from a law enforcement agency, and that is a continual sticking point. But it's fascinating to see and balance everything between the integrity of the investigation being accessible and transparent, although I find transparent to be kind of an overused buzzword, because that's just how it should be. It should not be. People should not have to fight for information from you ever. You should be making every effort always, because the more that you are, the more you get ugly early. The more you get out that you are able to, the more people are going to give you some breathing room, the less inclined they're going to be to go somewhere else. And guess what? Your phones are going to stop ringing, your email is going to stop going off, because people are going to be learned enough to know that if you do it right, they're just going to be able to wait. They're going to know to go where you are and receive the information.

Steve Morreale:

So you're on the inside now. I'm assuming that when you began the work as a crime report, that you had a certain respect for what officers had to do, but I suppose that that has changed as you come to know them in a completely different way. Yes, so talk about that.

Katie Nelson:

Honestly, when I was a journalist it was all fun and games for me. It was like I got to. I'm sure I got taken on ops that I never should have been taken on to. I remember one time I was on a ride along with the NARC unit, with a Central Valley agency, and the Detective Sergeant turned around and looked at me and he said if you hear gunshots, just duck, don't get out of the car. And like at the time I was like whoa, this sounds so exciting, okay. And then, like 30 seconds later, the bad guy goes running by the car which was an old Jeep, by the way, not protected at all with ballistic proof anything and then the Sergeant runs by me and he just yells at me he's passing the car, stay down. It was all fun and games. I come here and I see how much effort, time away from their families, long hours, that people put in. My soon to be husband is a Sergeant and he oh, you're buying into it, Katie, oh yeah the first several years of our relationship he was the Detective Sergeant over our homicide unit, our bureau, and his phone was going off every night. There were times where on weekends it would be we'd be in the middle of breakfast and he'd have to go up and investigate. You know a horrific crime and I have the awareness now so much more, of how much is on the line. One of our good friends was shot and wounded in the line of duty last summer and seeing him just a couple of hours after he had been ambushed he's lucky to be alive and to know that I may not be able to look at him today is if things had gone horribly awry. I don't think people who are not in law enforcement are in a first responder capacity that includes firefighters, military. They don't understand the gravity of how much is carried that is invisible in this line of work, what is being offered up to a vast majority of strangers without, for the most part without any hope of reciprocity, yeah. Yeah, and not understanding the context and the dedication to duty and, as you say, sort of the we all take, we all make a promise, we take an oath and we I myself included when we joined the department, and we don't take that lightly.

Steve Morreale:

Yeah, no, I understand that and, as you said, and now you're living it if that's the case, you're now going to be married to an officer and have a relationship. You understand firsthand, as so many wives do for sure, my own included, because it's not an easy job and it's not for the faint of heart. What is your aha moment? You know, at that point in time, here you're a young buck. You're saying yes, right, you're saying yes, you're going to be. They're basically going to open the curtain and let you, let you in behind the curtain, but that curtain has to close too, to a degree no different that it does in the medical profession than it does in in the writing profession. Right, the journalist profession, schools, there are certain things that are for the discipline. But now you're inside. What's the aha moment? You know where did you get the bite? That this is what I want to do, this is who I want to serve, this is who I want to help.

Katie Nelson:

I mean, my grandfather was a captain in the Navy and so I grew up around public service in some capacity and the invisibility of service, because you know people don't see the acts that go into it every day and I think I always liked the idea of law enforcement, whether or not I was going to admit it, but my first ride along in Lodi, california, was it? I remember there was, I was out on a ride along and of course everything was to use the term out here code, for it was peaceful, it was quiet, and all of a sudden the radio goes off and there is a armed robbery involving a gun at an auto parts store in the middle of town. The suspect is still on scene. We were clear across the other side of town and that officer she flipped on her lights and we hit the gas so hard I'm fairly certain I felt like a G force and we made it to this auto parts store as the guy is booking it down the road. Not too far away, any, a pistol whipped, I think, at least one individual inside the store and that rush of oh my God, we're going to go get the bad guy. I was 22. And I just thought this is it? I could not think of doing anything else, and I had that bug throughout my journalism career. I made it my mission to develop good rapport and relationships with all the police departments that I interacted with. There was a time, though, when I really knew that something. There was something else there. We stopped in and San Joaquin County. They were investigating, or they had reopened an investigation into the speed freak killers. They were a dynamic, prolific duo that murdered at least a handful of women and young women, including teenagers, in the San Joaquin County area in the 80s and early 90s, and there was just something. I was the day before I was set to interview one of them. He was up for parole. He hung himself, and I thought there was just something weird about that, and I was like what isn't he's telling people? Why is you know? Why are all these people left to wonder? Three months later, I get a call. They had started to dig out in a remote area of the county, and I ended up connecting with a detective out there, and he said get out here. We found some bones and talking with the families, basically going through the entire re-greaving process, with one family in particular after their daughter had been found on a hillside. Her clothes were still fairly intact I mean, she had withered away quite a bit, but there was still hair and this husband and wife they had been through hell and back and then they were revisiting it and I got to go through that entire process with them and it was such an honor as morbid as that sounds it was such an honor to be invited into that space and to see this happen and understand just how much it meant to have some semblance of understanding not closure per se, but understanding of what was finally going to happen to their daughter. And I was able to go to the funeral and I was able to stay in touch with them after, and that left a mark.

Steve Morreale:

So what you're saying here and when I bring it back to the police department and the officers that do the work day in and day out and have to work overtime and have to hunt and have to put their lives on the line, it seems to me that one of the things that you are trying to do is to humanize the police officer, that they have families, that they have difficulties, that they have illnesses and yet they still do their job. And so I presume these are some of the stories you're looking for to share the good things that people are willing to do, not just chase bad guys.

Katie Nelson:

Yes, and that exists every day. There were my soon to be husband, two years ago now had to oversee the investigation of a woman who allegedly murdered her newborn son and the impact and toll that that and I have a five year old stepdaughter, so that she was three at the time the impact that that had on him. He ended up writing a note to the public about here's how this is impacting us. So I had been through the process of seeing a cold case basically start to have some closure there. This was an active case where that baby had been through unimaginable horrors and he and his team investigated this and I don't know that he had ever had a case like that before. And watching him process that, watching that team process that and stay here until all hours to find the evidence, to try and have that be a clear cut presentation to the district attorney's office of she knew what she was doing. Here's how we know. And then just the emotional toll they're all parents watching them having to carry home that burden. That was not only hard to watch but I was so proud of how dedicated they were in spite of the horrors that they saw and knowing what they were going to have to look at when they get home and feel that connection or that anger or that sadness. They worked around the clock, they did not stop, and that has been time and again. They have done that for various cases and for various people, and the justice that they seek for the victims is unimaginable, and it is. I said this is a noble profession, it absolutely is, and there are a lot of noble people here. That's good to hear.

Steve Morreale:

So we're going to wind down and we're talking to Katie Nelson. She's out in Mountain View, california, today and representing the Mountain View Police Department. What I would ask is you do an awful lot of training and you are an advocate for using social media and how to best deal with the media, and what kinds of advice can you give to an organization that has dabbled in social media but probably has not yet mastered it or made it a priority? What kind of advice can you give?

Katie Nelson:

I would say the best piece of advice would be to understand that silence in a digital space, in an article, in an interview, anywhere, but especially in a digital space, silence is an answer In the court of public opinion, the highest court in the land right now, silence is the most damning and most damaging thing to an organization's reputation, especially in law enforcement. You may not be comfortable in this space, but you've got to get comfortable because this is the nature of the beast. Now it is not feeding journalists for their stories to be printed or to be put on their website or to be put on the 10 or 11 o'clock news. The playing field has been leveled by social media. You have a key opportunity and chance now to have your voice, be at the forefront and to be in the driver's seat of information, especially when it comes to your story, your narrative. If you are not there on social media in particular, you are giving somebody else the keys to the kingdom. You're handing it over and saying here's the license to tell our story for us, whether or not they're going to do a good job at it. Everybody in the department who serves in a role, especially as a social media coordinator, as a PIO. They are the ones who are able to best begin the process of articulating the true story of a department. Afford your agency and afford the profession the opportunity to negate this narrative that we have been seeing for so long now about what law enforcement is assumed to be. A lot of those assumptions are not true or they're not real, but it's time that people understand. The fastest, easiest way to do that is to be present in a digital space.

Steve Morreale:

Here's my yaba Yaba Katie. For God's sakes, how many platforms are there Now? You added next door. I've got to be on next door. I've got to be on X, I've got to be on Instagram, I've got to be on Meta. What's important, devil's advocate.

Katie Nelson:

I know what's important to your community. That's how we know. We ask them where do you prefer to communicate? We don't have the luxury anymore of asking people to come to us. We need to go where they are to start, the sooner you can be in their space and present in their environment. When it comes to at least their communication preferences, you're going to chip away at that barrier or that trust gap that exists because of what has happened over the last several years.

Steve Morreale:

Yeah, I mean, I think what you just raised is something I hadn't thought about in a long time. If ever, I'm a big one for pushing surveys out and asking how they feel. Have you interacted with us? How are you treated? What can we do better? But imagine if one of the questions is where do you get your news? Where do you get?

Intro:

your information.

Steve Morreale:

How can we communicate with you In social media and give them a list? That's a great piece of advice. Thank you very much for that. That's great.

Katie Nelson:

Welcome.

Steve Morreale:

So what's that last thing? What's on your bucket list? What are you having to do? What's on your to-do list for the rest of the week or for the rest of the month?

Katie Nelson:

It's so funny. I have my to-do list right here of the things that I want to accomplish over the next basically year. Something that I have been hoping to achieve is to have a more holistic, robust and detailed critical incident response model that can be scaled or replicated at any size agency small, medium, large. One of the best agencies that I have seen do that is the Metropolitan Police Department and the New Zealand Police Department. They have just been able to achieve levels of response and information sharing that are still hit or miss here in the United States. So my bucket list is to actually speak with them and get their perspective and their outlines on how this looks, so that at least here in the United States we can begin to have a better foundational practice for critical incident response models. When it comes specifically to communication, I'm not talking about tactics or operation. I'm talking specifically about ensuring that our internal and external stakeholders are taken care of when it comes to understanding what is happening with our department.

Steve Morreale:

That's great. Well, it's been a pleasure to finally connect with you. I really appreciate it. We've been talking to Katie Nelson, and she is the social media and public relations coordinator at Mountain View, california, someone who started in wine. And here's a question you said you weren't drinking wine. Did you change?

Katie Nelson:

Oh yes. So okay, so now you learned, you inherited that.

Steve Morreale:

So, thank you. This is great to be able to talk about, so important to talk about social media and what you do and sharing. I appreciate it. So thank you very, very much.

Katie Nelson:

Thank you.

Steve Morreale:

So that's it. Another episode is in the can. We thank you for listening. We want you to stay safe. Keep up the good work, despite the noise. Stay tuned for more episodes. I'm Steve Morreale The CopDoc Podcast.

Intro:

Thanks, Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager, turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.

Police Leadership and Social Media
Social Media and PR for Police
Importance of Timely Transparent Communication
Law Enforcement

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