In an age of instant communication and social media, Asheville Police are still stuck in the 20th century.
“The Asheville Police Department does a lot of good,” said Police Chief William Anderson. “What we’re not good at is getting that information out to the public.”
Anderson was speaking to the 20 attendees of the department’s first meeting in unveiling its new operations plan. Citizens heard a presentation on the plan before breaking into groups to discuss their ideas and concerns, specifically regarding the ways APD communicates.
“I find the news boring,” said community member Kalla Hughley. “I check Facebook, Twitter. If APD had a Twitter page … that’s their opportunity for them to show their good deeds.”
Much of the conversation centered around a lack of information and follow up from APD. The department does have a Twitter page, but it is updated infrequently — a May 2 tweet is the most recent. The department does not have a Facebook page.
The 3-year ops plan focuses on six planning areas, with an officer assigned to each: two community-focused ones (quality of life and agency communication) and four internal (recruitment and retention, leadership, organizational structure, and equipment and technology). To ensure steady progress in meeting goals, the plan sets benchmarks over its three-year purview.
The push for a new operations plan started in September 2013, when the city manager’s office directed the APD to examine areas of need. The department brought in outside consultants and former law enforcement to facilitate and oversee the study.
Each person in the break-out groups was asked to think of an example of one good and one bad experiences with APD communication. Then the groups discussed their examples and attempted to reach conclusions on concrete steps APD could take to improve its services. Almost all discussion centered around a distinct lack, in APD, of what has become ubiquitous digital communication, whether through Facebook, Twitter, texts or email.
“What we need to do is develop our public information office team,” said Anderson. “We want to make sure we’re pushing information out.”
APD has only one public information officer, who shares that duty with “several other jobs,” said Anderson.
Anderson was adamant that the operations plan was “not something we’re going to put on a shelf.”
“I’ve got to emphasize,” he said.” This [the ops plan] is a living document. [It] is something we’re going to have to constantly evaluate to stay current. [We] want this to be a new day when it comes to the Asheville Police Department.”