Screenshot of Safe Communities TikTok

By Anna Smith, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Published Oct 29, 2021

Brooks’ Safe Communities Committee and Community Policing Unit have seen great success on an unexpected worldwide scale, thanks to the use  of social media platforms; in particular, TikTok.

While they are  also active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the use of Tiktok has  allowed them to reach a wider and younger audience, said Kendra Seiben,  Safe Communities Facilitator.

“On our Facebook, Instagram and  Twitter pages we have more of a local audience so that’s definitely the  social media that we use if we just want to reach our local area  especially for events or just relevant local safety information,” said  Seiben. “But that broader impact that we have is on TikTok, and only 70%  of our followers are from Canada. The rest are from all over the  world.”

The  account boasts nearly 107,000 followers, with significant engagement  both on posted videos and livestream events called TikTok Lives hosted  through the app, with some videos having over a million views. Seiben  considers this a great success.

“People are just genuinely  interested and have questions, but they don’t necessarily have an  opportunity to speak to a police officer,” said Cpl. Josh Argue, Unit  Lead for the Community Policing Unit. “Everyone says you know if you  want to, you can just go down to your local detachment or police agency  wherever you like, but no one really does that. This way, you’re face to  face, you have instant face time with a police officer or social worker  when we do our lives, but you don’t have to leave the comfort of  wherever you are. So it’s that it’s taking that exact same concept of  foot patrols, which is a very basic part of community policing and  modernizing it and we’re just doing a digital foot patrol every time we  do a TikTok live.”

The content is both generated by the unit and  by their audience, due to the ability to respond to a comment with a  video response built into the app, said Seiben. 

“The  way that we have kind of fashioned our page is that it’s a very  Question and Answer kind of thing, so we will answer questions given in  our comments,” said Seiben. “And we answer them for everyone to see.  Like Josh said, in our Lives, we have people come forward, we say don’t  feel scared to ask us the hard questions and stuff like that, we just  ask that everyone remains respectful. And we’ve had people ask very hot  topics in terms of policing, enforcement, anything like those things  that have gone on in history. And after we have had a chance to actually  acknowledge and answer that question of that concern, they’ve actually  come back on and thanked us for that and said that no one else is taking  the time to give me a straightforward answer, or everyone’s always  found a way to avoid the question.”

The account has received some  negative attention, said Seiben, largely regarding the notion of police  on social media, but notes that their overarching audience is largely  very respectful and has at times done more policing of their comments  than Safe Communities does themselves.

Argue notes that not  everyone has positive experiences with the police, and respects that  people may ask pointed questions or make off the cuff remarks about the  job without it becoming a negative interaction. 

In the Community  Policing Unit, he considers it “doing his job right” when he can provide  policing services without being seen as a police officer.

“So  many people have questions and they might have fears, or even if they  might have a warrant of some sort, and they still might have something  else on the go that they want to call about, it’s very important that  they know it will hold them accountable right and we’ll be there but  while we’re helping them we’re that neutral being,” said Argue. “We’re  there to provide policing services to them and help them navigate those  without them viewing us as traditional police. That to me is one of the  biggest successes and the most meaningful change that we can do in our  communities is with our youth, and I firmly believe and I will I will  debate this, there’s no greater community to make change at the  grassroots level than Brooks, Alberta and that’s just strictly on the  makeup of our community.”

This item is reprinted with permission from Prairie Post East. See article HERE.

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