Suffolk police have launched an office of strategic communications that they said will bring communication with the public into the 21st century, officials announced.
The newly created office will be led by former county executive spokesman Justin Meyers who has been transitioning into his new position as assistant deputy commissioner.
He will replace current police spokesman Chief Kevin Fallon as the voice of the department in July after the 39-year veteran retires. Meyers’ title will then switch to assistant commissioner for strategic communications and public communications and he will also oversee the department’s public information office.
Modeled after the strategic communications office created by NYPD in August 2015, the Suffolk office will be comprised of civilians and will focus on increasing the department’s online and social media presence. The goal is to enable the public to directly interact with the department on various platforms.
“We want to take it to the next level” said newly appointed Suffolk Police Commissioner Tim Sini. “We think it’s important from a public safety and community relations perspective.”
Sini said there is no doubt that earning the public’s trust in law enforcement helps fight crime and he hopes the new office will be a key part in building that trust.
“If people trust us, they’ll give us information,” he said. “We have to make sure those relationships are there so people trust law enforcement.”
The department’s new top brass has been ramping up efforts to improve transparency after it took a hit earlier this year when former Chief of Department James Burke pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violation and obstruction charges in February.
“There’s no secret the Suffolk Police Department has had its issues and we could improve that with strategic communications,” said Meyers.
Sini said all the precincts and their commands are going to be responsible for strategically communicating with their communities via social media.
“They are closer to the ground. So if an issue percolates in the third precinct they are going to have the authority to communicate about that issue via Face Book and Twitter,” Sini said. “I’ll probably have a Twitter account.”
Meyers, 30, said the new office is especially vital “in a time where you have these anti-police movements around the country. Social media and community outreach tells the story of the PD.”
NYPD Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Communications Jon Murad said the department’s goal was to re-establish “for the cops themselves that what they do is valuable” while simultaneously showing the public that police are necessary.
“In addition to information sharing ... addressing complaints and being a way to talk to the people, it’s also a humanizing tool,” Murad said.