Followers of the Stoughton Police Department’s Facebook page might have noticed posts about criminal arrests over the past few months.
It was a stark change from the department’s previous typical social media communications.
While the posting has evolved since April – at one point, it included booking photos of people arrested – officers now primarily post information about criminal arrests and photos of active subjects. The department has continued to post events officers believe are of interest to the community, such as scams, seat belt campaigns and other community events the department is involved in.
The highly public outing of people, mostly of the major arrests, is aimed both at curbing misinformation the department has noticed circulating on other Facebook pages and initiating better communication with the public, chief Greg Leck told the Hub this month.
Leck said this is still a work in progress and the police department can adjust rules regarding what to post after more feedback from the community.
For the month of June, for example, the SPD’s Facebook page posted 16 times, including two arrest reports, a fireworks awareness post, a notice of a fundraising campaign and a press release.
Leck said being able to get accurate information to the public quickly is important, and the Facebook page can help. He said it’s particularly important when there is misinformation spreading on social media.
Lt. Nathan Hartwig, who is responsible for many of the posts on the page, said the most prominent example of correcting misinformation was when someone posted that the police department’s K9 officer, Ole, had died.
Leck cited calls from people who want to report about posts they see in Stoughton community Facebook groups, including a post last year from someone who claimed to have been shot at that resulted in hundreds of comments sharing misinformation about the incident.
“It got to be disturbing to us,” Leck said of the false reports. “We want to make sure the whole story gets out.”
Although all lieutenants and dispatchers have the ability to post on the department’s page, Hartwig said he is the main user.
Initially the police department was posting photos of the people arrested in the weekly arrest report. After feedback from the community and alders, the department decided to stop.
“This is a smaller community,” Hartwig said. “We were getting phone calls, and so we talked about it and decided to stop doing that.”
Hartwig said he’d eventually like to see more awareness campaigns posted on Facebook.
“A lot of people get their information from Facebook,” he said. “It is a way for us to inform people of what is going on in their community.”
He said that could include things such as obscure ordinances, unfamiliar laws and statistics related to crime or driving.
“We could post something like, ‘It’s November, watch out for deer on the road,’ ” Hartwig said.