“Tweet from the Beat” is one of the many social media initiatives CCPD has undertaken over the past few years

The Cape Coral Police Department hosted its fifth “Tweet from the Beat” this past Friday evening.

“Tweet from the Beat” gives followers of the department’s Twitter account a unique real-time glimpse at a typical day in the life of a Cape Coral police officer.

Cape Coral has long been heralded as one of the state of Florida’s safest cities. As a matter of fact, the city ranks as the number two safest city in the state in the most recent survey. However, even as a safe city, like many other cities, Cape Coral faces its challenges of those participating in illegal activities.

To combat those illegal activities, the agency has spent the past few years, cultivating a strong online and digital presence through a number of different digital channels. “Tweet from the Beat” is just one of the many social media and digital tools the department has launched in the past few years.

The foray into the world of digital technology was part of Police Chief Jay Murphy’s “Community Governance” initiative.

The initiative’s main objective is to create more responsiveness to the stakeholders in the community. As part of that initiative, the agency began focusing on social media as a tool to interact with the public, “It is a way to reach out to the community on their terms,” explains Cape Coral Police Sergeant Dana Coston.

Coston and Cape Coral Police Lieutenant Tony Sizemore make up the police’s Public Affairs Department, who has played a major role in creating the desired “Community Governance”. Despite a small budget, and even smaller man power, Sizemore and Coston made it their mission to create a sizeable influence in the world of technology in an effort to interact more with the community, “It was about doing as much as we can with as little spent as possible, but using the highest technology we could get our hands on.”

The results of their work have been a revamped website filled with up to date information, photos and video, shot and produced primarily by Coston. The department also boasts a Facebook page with over 2,800 fans, and a Twitter following that exceeds 2,600. More importantly, the social media efforts have also produced results in the field.

The results have been so positive that it is no longer just those locally who have taken notice, but, across the country. The two have given presentations on their success at a variety of law enforcement conferences and training sessions. Just this past weekend, the department was named one of three finalists for the “Excellence at a Large Agency” ConnectedCOPS Award.

According to their website, ConnectedCOPS gives the award to a law enforcement agency, anywhere in the world, of 151 sworn officers or more that has demonstrated overall excellence in the use of social media to enhance its services to the public. The award will be presented in September of this year.

Not one to rest on accolades or past accomplishments, the department expanded their latest version of “Tweet from the Beat” by partnering with a fellow agency over a thousand miles away. On Friday night, Sergeant Andy Green from the police department from Lima, Ohio, joined the Cape Coral Police Department in the virtual world to partner for the latest edition of “Tweet from the Beat” after hearing about Cape Coral’s success with the events, “Sergeant Green was interested in ramping up their social media initiatives and got in touch with me. I was able to share our experiences, and now they are doing their own,” says Coston.

As Sergeant Green took to the road in Lima, Ohio, Coston started the evening in Cape Coral at 4:00pm with a quick walk around of the department that included a tour of the Dispatch Center, or internally known as the “nerve center”. There around half a dozen employees fielding all of the calls coming into the department. The employees then send out the calls to the 15 patrol officers on duty that evening covering Cape Coral from one end to the next.

From there it was out in the afternoon rain, into the car and on the road, something a Sergeant does not have the opportunity to do often, “It is a chance to keep in touch with my roots.”

It did not take long for the Sergeant to get re-acclimated. Possible warrant, a disturbance at a business, a possible suicide attempt, vehicle in a ditch, and a possible gunfire, were all calls that came across the radio. That much activity would seem to fill a night’s work. However, that was all before 6:00pm. While, the possible gunfire turned out to be a car backfire, it showed that even in the safest cities, the possibility is always there.

As calls would come in, Coston would head out in that direction, zigzagging across the city giving those following the event on Twitter, a real-time look at a typical Friday night in Cape Coral. He also took time answering a wide variety of questions from a number of followers. At the same time, his counterpart in Lima, Ohio, Sergeant Andy Green was doing the same thing a thousand miles away.

The evening wrapped up for “Tweet from the Beat” just after 10:00pm with a drug bust along Cape Coral Parkway in the South Cape. By the end of the evening, the department had responded to hundreds of calls from all different people with all different issues.

For those who participated in “Tweet from the Beat”, it once again provided an insight to what many rarely get to experience, “Many people don’t realize all that goes on in the city. It is a very safe city, but it takes a lot of hard work to keep it that way,” says Coston, as he headed home, ending his 15 hour day on the job.

Thanks to the efforts of Coston, Sizemore, and the entire Cape Coral Police Department, residents now get just a glimpse at what these men and women go through on a daily basis.