There are numerous ways to maintain transparency between the community and the police department, but Hollister Police Chief David Westrick has found social media to be the most effective.
“I’m a big believer in a movement called Humanizing the Badge,” Westrick said. “It’s kind of a mandate that every police officer that’s brave enough to wear the badge also be brave enough to treat every encounter they have out in the community with everybody they meet as if it matters to them, because it really does matter.”
Westrick treats social media as a form of community outreach. He wants local residents to have access to their police chief and believes that social media provides another way to do that beyond traditional in-person meetings or over-the-phone conversations.
“What’s been great is that folks participate,” he said. “They will email or message me and they want to know an answer to a particular question or a particular issue, but they don’t want to necessarily put themselves out there. It’s a great tool for that.”
The mayor of Hollister supported Westrick’s use of the internet.
“What social media does is it allows more people to communicate,” Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said. “Sometimes it’s a little tougher to make the phone call or meet in person, so this gives you the opportunity to start the conversation.”
Westrick has been using social media since 2009. He uses Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Sometimes he live blogs using Facebook Live or Periscope. He also blogs as an extension of all those outlets.
“It’s important for folks to know I’m a member of the community,” he said. “I’m just like them. I have hopes. I have dreams. I have a life, and the things that occur in our community also affect me as well.”
To ready the police chief’s blog, go to chiefwestrick.blogspot.com.
Westrick started his blog, hosted on Blogspot, in the middle of 2015. He pays for it with his personal funds, and only blogs and uses social media during his personal time unless it’s a crime alert.
Blog posts tend to come from Westrick’s journaling, as he enjoys writing. He blogs once or twice a month.
“I try to mentor leadership, but I’m also trying to model it as well, trying to model the things I want to do so folks will try to emulate that.”
Westrick said that some of his contemporaries across the country think he’s a bit crazy because he has a nontraditional way of thinking about the job, but that doesn’t bother him.
“My job is, in my opinion, to be an example of leadership and to problem solve wherever I can,” he said. “I think for my job as a leader, I need to model the behavior that I’m asking people to do with me.”
Velazquez said such interactivity shows “the community we care, we listen, we want input, and we’re there for the community.”
“I think he’s done a great job,” the mayor said.