One of the exciting things about living in a tech-centric area like South Florida amid the social media revolution happening online is how it connects locals. The internet is a global phenomenon connecting millions of people every minute, no matter their location on the planet. What's really amazing is how this global technology is becoming locally focused to reconnect communities.
Here in Boca Raton, for instance, we have a public servant who may be the most outreach-oriented web user in the nation. Our own chief of police, Dan Alexander, reaches out to the community through his blog (BocaChiefBlog.com), his Twitter account (@bocachief), and the Boca PD's websites (BocaPolice.com and BocaVIPER.com). The Police Department itself has a Twitter feed for sending out alerts and news items on the moment (@BocaPolice).
Chief Alexander doesn't just send out public messages or PSA's through his accounts either. His blog gives the nitty-gritty on what is happening in the Police Department, what types of changes and plans they have for the short and long term, and more.
His Twitter account, however, is where it's really at. At least for me. Here he gives up-to-the-minute tweets about things going on right here in Boca Raton. He also interacts with the public (using a smart phone, I think, and knowing antiquated municipalities, it is probably a BlackBerry) through this account, answering questions, referring people to the proper offices, and generally gathering feedback on how the department is doing.
You can see that he's doing this because that information-gathering shows up on his blog, where he talks about how people are reacting to new measures, how changes in the PD's operations are being seen by the public, and so forth.
In short, Chief Alexander is using the social media revolution as a strong outreach tool for his department. He's obviously a policeman whose primary duty as chief of police is to interact with the community in a positive way and to keep the peace by staying closely in tune with the people he serves.
You can't have anything but respect for that.
In a way, although the metaphor is kind of cheesy, Alexander is doing what Andy Taylor did in Mayberry. Only on a much larger (and electronic) scale. He's staying in touch with his neighbors here in Boca, getting to know them, and doing more than just showing up at council meetings or having an "open door" policy that everyone's afraid to use.
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He sincerely seems to believe that a large part of his job as police chief is to do as much public outreach as possible.
You know what? I wish more of our public servants were like that. I'd like to see everyone in our governments act like Chief Alexander. Maybe it would relieve some of the disconnect that people seem to feel exists between them and those they've elected to serve them.
Alexander and even several political candidates in recent campaigns have shown that this approach works well. Having a Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc., account is one thing. Using it is much more important. He recently even spoke on a panel at the #140conf in California on government and web2.0.
What do you think?