Beginning February 29th, Amy McCarter, a Topeka native and graduate from Seaman High School and Washburn University, earning her bachelor’s degree in human services and then a master’s degree in social work, stepped into the newly created position.
In the past, Amy has worked as a victim’s advocate and also in the field of medical social work. Since approximately 2009 she’s been doing communications and marketing for an insurance company. The new position allows her to use both the skills she honed in marketing and communications as well as the more direct contact with the public she had in social work. Amy commented that both jobs seem diverse, but they are really just about communicating with others, whether in writing or face-to-face.
Since starting the job, she’s been keeping busy – spending the first couple of weeks learning about the various departments and units – then figuring how they all work together and why policies are in place. She also had the chance to get out in the real world and see how police officers work in various situations, including the fatal shooting by a member of the U.S. Marshals Service’s fugitive task force. The shooting happened on March 7, 2016.
Now she has the basic understanding, she’s focusing on what her job will deal with mostly – social media and creating transparency in the dealings the police department has with the public and internally. She’s been active in putting together an upcoming “Ask the Chief” session featuring Police Chief, James Brown answering questions on Facebook and Twitter for two hours on April 5, 2016.
Amy’s also going to do “Tweet Alongs,” similar to ride-alongs, but all on Twitter, where she’ll explain how the different units function and respond to comments and questions.
Reaching out to the public through social media and other media is a valuable way for departments to tell their story and build trust through transparency. McCarter said, “Law enforcement faces a lot of challenges.” She went on to say since she is not a law enforcement officer, she hopes the public will see her as a resource to access and tie into any concerns they may have, saying, “I’m very happy to fill that role.”
It’s a good move on Topeka PD’s part. Building relationships when things are good, and no crisis is looming means when a problem happens, people are more comfortable with allowing time to get things right again.