EAST MOLINE, Illinois -- Local police departments have been using social media to connect with their communities, share important information, and sometimes just to crack a joke. Sharp wit and internet savvy has gained them thousands of loyal followers from around the Quad Cities and even from overseas.
Blue Grass Chief of Police Garrett Jahns on Friday sent a special delivery to East Moline Police Department -- a dozen heart-shaped donuts. High stakes in a friendly Facebook poll to determine the best local police department account in which East Moline PD edged out Blue Grass 54 percent to 46 percent.
"Congratulations East Moline Police, DONUT let your guard down," Jahns wrote in a Facebook post. "Everybody wins! Blue Grass PD + East Moline PD = BFFs," he posted.
It was just one example of the humorous posts police departments share their lighter side, and their humanity. But officers say social media can also be used in their investigative toolbox. Jahns said the Blue Grass PD Facebook page has helped his department identify numerous criminals they were looking for.
"And it has helped us come to a very fast closing on a lot of cases where we might not have been able to identify that person if it weren't for the help of our citizens," he said.
It's also an effective platform for making important announcements to the public about severe weather and road conditions, said East Moline Police Captain Darren Gault, who accepted the donuts from Blue Grass PD.
"Almost everyone has that at their fingertips," Gault said. "And we feel it’s a good way to get our message out and get the word out," he said.
But one of the most important effects of social media is that it helps the public feel the heart behind the badge.
"We're trying to get everybody to understand that we're human, and that this is a job that we do," said Gault. "Blue Grass, Moline Police Department, Iowa City, a lot of these departments have great social media pages and we learn from each other," he said.
"We are people too," Jahns said. "We have feelings -- we feel said, we feel happy, and we like to express those emotions through the writings on our Facebook posts."