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Ogle sheriff seeks public input on social network experiment

Lawman asks whether project is worthwhile

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST
Michael Harn

I would like to thank the community members for their feedback regarding what they thought would be preferred content for the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

We have been in discussions with members of the public since the fall of 2011. We received many good ideas and began implementing them recently. Judging by the huge amount of views, I believe the input from the citizens of Ogle County was right on target.

One major challenge we face these days is working within an austere budget situation. This type of social networking is very time-consuming to manage, and I thought long and hard about devoting precious resources to implement and monitor this site.

In the end, I decided we just couldn’t devote personnel to this task, because everyone in the Sheriff’s Office is handling an enormous workload already. I am proud of the way my employees have stepped up in these challenging times and executed very professionally while being short-staffed.

However, I strongly believed we should find a way to try it. The public input was a huge factor in finding a way to get it done.

I reached out to a communications professional and resident of the county and asked whether there was a way to experiment with social networking, to learn whether the public would like to engage with us in this manner. He volunteered to assist us, and I quickly gave the green light.

With no cost to the taxpayer, we can learn whether our citizens think it’s important for us to engage in this manner.

I was stunned by the initial results of this experiment. The first 14 days generated well more than 20,000 views of our posts on the site, and readers shared our posts on their pages, and that generated even more views elsewhere.

For the most part, posters have been respectful, but understandably, emotions can run high where crime is involved. We do delete a few posts that contain profanity or are too inflammatory.

The following request has been posted on the site: “We at the Sheriff’s Office understand that crime is an emotional issue. I would like to ask everyone to be respectful to each other on this page, and please refrain from using profanity. We greatly appreciate everyone taking the time to view and participate here. Thank you!”

Social media is a great way to communicate with the public. I can envision many ways that this two-way communication tool could be utilized in the future.

I am looking forward to public input on this experiment. I would like to learn whether citizens think this is worthwhile, and whether they will engage us to help make it better.

The public can find the page by searching on Facebook for Ogle County Sheriff’s Office, and then “like” it to follow news releases automatically.

Note to readers – Michael R. Harn is sheriff of Ogle County.

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