Dionne Waugh, 34 

Public Affairs Coordinator, Richmond Police Department

click to enlarge feat42_dionne_waugh.jpg

Ash Daniel

Dionne Waugh can recite the greatest hits of the Richmond Police Department's Facebook page off the top of her head.

There was the post about the detective who adopted five deaf pit bulls. It reached more than 2 million people and was picked up by the Huffington Post and animal blogs around the world.

Then there was a photo she shared of a police officer pushing a man whose wheelchair ran out of batteries on a cold day. Coming in at No. 3 was a video of an officer on a kid's pogo stick in one of the city's housing projects.

When the city hired Waugh in 2008, her job description included zero mentions of social media. But as a former newspaper crime reporter, Waugh found herself frustrated by being awash in stories from inside the department with no outlet to share them.

It took two months of persistent, friendly pestering of then-Chief Brian Norwood before Waugh was cleared to launch the pages. Waugh says she was aware of only one other Virginia department that had a Facebook page.

"Every single law enforcement department's No. 1 concern is that they will just be inundated with negative comments," Waugh says.

Instead, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages followed. Five years and thousands of likes later, Waugh has been called to speak at police departments and conferences across the country. Two years ago, the department held its own social media conference bringing in police from all over.

Social media now plays a critical function at the department: Allowing officers to send out crime alerts, suspect photos and surveillance video to a wide and captive audience.

"Now when we have information we need to push out, we've already built that rapport," Waugh says. "So we can get in front of people quickly and they know it's coming from us."


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