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Communication, relationships key for police

Lt. Tim Schmidt

Lt. Tim Schmidt

When the police department appointed its first full-time public information officer two decades ago, the Anaheim Bulletin/Orange County Register was Anaheim’s primary source of police news and information.

Back then, more residents had surfed Orange County’s famed beaches than the Internet. The police department didn’t have a website. Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, was in grade school.

The police department was ahead of its time, professionalizing its communications.

It still is.

Anaheim PD was one of the first police agencies in California to embrace social media, creating the “Behind the Badge” news site four years ago. Since then, it has amassed 3,600 Facebook followers, sends regular updates on breaking news out via Twitter and still works hard and smart to meet the needs of traditional print and television media – in multiple languages.

Newly promoted Lt. Bob Dunn was the third sergeant to serve as “PIO.”  He played a critical role in the department’s transparent and authentic communications with the community and media during and following last summer’s unrest. And he was the first to lead communications for both the police and fire departments. With the promotion, Dunn returns to patrol with deserved admiration – like his predecessors, retired Sgts. Joe Vargas and Rick Martinez.

Interim Police Chief Raul Quezada plans to build upon Dunn’s successes and find new ways to build relationships and improve communication with the community.

He has tapped Lt. Tim Schmidt to lead the formation of a public-affairs bureau – elevating the responsibility from a sergeant to lieutenant and adding more focus to community engagement.

Schmidt, a Magnolia High School graduate who still resides in Anaheim, most recently led APD’s gang unit. In the past year, gang crime is down significantly: gang shootings have plummeted to 15 from 42 and stabbings and beatings have dropped to 17 from 58.

Schmidt is also no stranger to communications, having served in the back-up PIO role.

“How can we get more residents engaged and involved in what we’re doing, from fighting crime to helping us spread safety information?” he asks. “And how do we get residents more involved who live in neighborhoods where Spanish is the predominant language at home?”

Those are among the myriad questions he’s asking – and the issues he plans to tackle.

And he wants help wherever he can find it.

Got an idea about how Anaheim PD can provide more or better information?

Send Schmidt a email at tschmidt@anaheim.net.

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