This week, the Burbank Police Department took its online profile to a whole new level.
With a new direct messaging system, the public now will be able to get up-to-the-moment public safety information via email, text message — or even a Tweet.
A message might warn commuters to stay away from a traffic accident, or alert the public that police are searching for a dangerous suspect.
“There’s no reason not to get into the social media arena to better communicate with citizens and business owners, or anyone who comes into the city of Burbank,” Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said.
Nixle is a communication system used by more than 4,600 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. It sends emails or text messages to subscribers at no cost to the subscriber or the agency.
To inform residents of the new service, notices will appear in utility bills and on Burbank’s Channel 6. Other channels, including the chamber of commerce, civic organizations and the Burbank Unified School District, also will be used, Ryburn said.
Police hope to work with Burbank Unified officials to use the Nixle system for students and parents in the case of an emergency, Ryburn said.
The move comes after police began posting arrest logs on the department’s website in November.
Unlike the third-party platform www.crimemapping.com, to which Burbank provides information for email alerts on various crimes, Nixle messages are created and sent by police.
Ryburn, along with Lt. John Dilibert and other officers in the Community Outreach and Professional Standards Bureau, or COPS, will be preparing and sending the Nixle messages.
A new, stand-alone website for police could be live by the summer, Ryburn said. Requests for proposals are due in March.
“Nixle is something I wanted to do,” Ryburn said. “The only drawback is manpower. The value of the information is that it be put in. We’re doing it in increments.
Sgt. Robert Quesada, a former public information officer for the department now assigned to air support, said discussions started last summer about enhancing the website and use of social media.
“In this day and age, if we’re a modern department with all kinds of good equipment but we can’t find a form online, that means the website is prehistoric,” Quesada said.
One of the agencies Quesada and COPS officials visited was the Arcadia Police Department, an agency of about 70 sworn officers covering a population of about 55,000 people. Arcadia police have been using Facebook, Twitter and Nixle for two years now.
Arcadia police Sgt. Tom LeVeque, who was part of last week’s three-day social media training program attended by Burbank police and other agencies, said Burbank was taking the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t set a media-savvy community up for disappointment.
“They are doing it right, doing their homework and doing research,” LeVeque said. “They’re not just jumping in and then walking away. If you try to jump in and then don’t participate, there will be a community backlash. The community will say they’re not doing it for the right reasons.”
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. Capt. Mike Parker, who helped conduct the training, said his agency tested Nixle with the 2009 Station fire.
“Different people want information in different ways,” Parker said. “What we preach is, get people the information the way they want it, and Burbank seems to be prescribing to this.”
“If the public doesn’t know what they’re doing, how can the public know what’s going on?” Parker added.
“Expectations have changed,” he said. “People didn’t expect it in the past. If law enforcement doesn’t do it when the public knows it’s possible, they lose confidence in a great police agency.”
For more information, visit www.nixle.com.