April 24, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at https://www.policeforum.org/coronavirus.


Staying Engaged with the Community in a Time of Social Distancing

Stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions have upended how police departments and sheriffs’ offices engage with residents and carry out community policing. But many agencies are finding new ways to stay connected with their communities.

Social media, virtual meetings, and some new variations on traditional approaches are allowing police to disseminate information about COVID-19 and other issues in the community. These efforts also serve to reassure residents that police remain visible and active in their communities.

In today’s COVID-19 Report, we explore how various police departments are actively communicating and engaging with their communities.

Key Takeaways

1. Police are using social media to provide COVID information and engage in Q&A with the community.

2. Police are informing residents about how to comply with public health guidelines.

3. Police are using online tools and traditional approaches to assist vulnerable populations.

4. Police are maintaining visibility in the community through creative outreach methods.

5.  Police are using social media to thank the community.


1. Police are using social media to provide COVID information and engage in Q&A with the community.

Richmond, CA Police Captain Louie Tirona:

We Use Zoom to Hold Virtual Meetings with Our Community

We continue to have a strong and robust social media presence through the normal channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Additionally, Chief Bisa French held a Zoom meeting in which community members were invited to ask questions and express any concerns they have. Our mayor, fire chief, and Chief French will hold another Zoom meeting with interested community members.


Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief of Staff Matt Bromeland:

Nextdoor and ELUCD Help Us Stay in Touch and Gauge Community Concerns

We stay engaged with the community through meetings held via conference calls in each of our patrol districts and sectors. We also use Nextdoor to share information about crimes, investigations, street closures, and online police-community events. And we use ELUCD to monitor the community’s opinions and comments.

Our officers and community outreach members are also out there checking on people in the community who need help and our vulnerable populations.


Allen, TX Police Deputy Chief Kenneth Myers:

We Send Text Messages to 9-1-1 Callers Explaining Why Our Response May Be Different

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we updated our SPIDR Tech platform to inform 9-1-1 callers that the police department may have an “alternate” response to their call. For example, we often send text messages informing the 9-1-1 callers that an officer may call them by phone to take minor reports, or may ask them to step outside their apartment building or home to talk to us.

The police department also provides a hyperlink in the text message that takes them to a video message explaining how the police department has changed operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to keep our employees and the community we serve safe and healthy.


Fairfax County, VA Police Captain Greg Fried:

Using Virtual Meeting Platforms to Coordinate Outreach Efforts

We have hosted several virtual community meetings to remain connected, focused on keeping our community informed, and answering questions and concerns they may have as we navigate through this COVID crisis together. We use online platforms to connect with our community organizations, government partners, and volunteers to assist with outreach efforts and donations of various items.


2.  Police are informing residents about how to comply with public health guidelines.

Tempe, AZ Police Department:

Posting YouTube Videos That Explain Public Health Regulations

The Tempe Police Department is sharing Public Service Announcements on YouTube and other social media platforms to explain public health and safety guidelines during the pandemic.

For example, a recent PSA, Playing the Parks Safe, outlines restrictions on using the city’s parks and how the police department is implementing them. The video explains that Tempe’s parks are open, but yellow tape and signs have been installed to indicate that amenities like picnic benches and basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts cannot be used, because they would attract groups of people, in violation of social distancing rules.



Boca Raton, FL Police Department:

Using Twitter to Dispel Rumors

The Boca Raton Police Department is using Twitter to dispel rumors on issues such as police enforcement of public health guidelines. One recent tweet addressed a false claim that officers would be charging people with misdemeanors for failure to wear face masks.



Middletown Township, PA Police Chief Joe Bartorilla:

Warning the Community about COVID Scams

Social media has been huge for us through this, not just to educate the community, but more to explain the police department’s role during the crisis. We’re also letting the community know what to be on the lookout for with scams, thefts, and other crimes that seem to have increased lately. 

The Middletown Township posted a video on Facebook describing many types of COVID-19 scams that are being perpetrated, such as:

--Fake at-home test kits,

--Fake cures and vaccines,

--Fake websites selling nonexistent medical supplies, surgical mask, toilet paper, and other items,

--People pretending to be doctors who treated a friend or relative and asking for payment

--Charity scams,

--Investment scams,

--and phishing scams that enable the perpetrator to obtain banking or credit card information from the victim’s computer or phone.

The video provides a police phone number to report such scams.


Detroit, MI Police Department

Participating in a Facebook Podcast

Police Chief James Craig participated in the Open Mike Live podcast on Facebook to update the community on his own recovery from COVID-19 and discuss community concerns, such as a recent uptick in domestic violence crimes. 


3.  Police are using online tools and traditional approaches to assist vulnerable populations.

Mountain View, CA Police Department:

An Interactive Map to Direct Homeless Persons to Essential Services

The Mountain View Police Department is publicizing an online, interactive map for persons experiencing homelessness to locate basic services, including hygiene stations, safe parking sites, or safe places to stay. 


San Mateo, CA Police Captain Dave Norris:

Videos Inform the Community About Our Food Delivery Partnerships

We’ve produced a couple of videos that were very well received by the community. One video featured the food deliveries we are facilitating through our partnerships with local food banks and our Police Activities League. A second video from our Chief before the recent holiday weekend reminds our community about social distancing and contagion prevention.


Chatham, MA Police Lt. Andrew B. Goddard:

Providing Grocery and Pharmacy Runs for Elderly Residents

We’ve been checking in with our elderly populations to ensure they have food and medications. We have coordinated with our Emergency Operations Center and with our CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers to make grocery and pharmacy runs for the elderly to keep them protected.


Saco, ME Police Chief Jack Clements:

Sharing a Hotline Number to Direct People to Resources

We have a hotline number that is widely circulated during online city council meetings and is also on our social media platforms, so that anyone in need can contact the city for assistance or guidance. In addition, we are mailing out postcards to seniors with basic information on city services that are available and providing the hotline number as well.



4. Police are maintaining visibility in the community through creative outreach methods.

Martinsville, VA Police Deputy Chief Robert Fincher:

COVID Wellness Walks

In our residential neighborhoods, we’re conducting COVID Wellness Walks. We advertise through social media and Reverse-911 calls that we will be coming to that neighborhood to check on the residents in the area. We let the citizens know that officers will be walking through the neighborhood and some officers will be on bicycles. We tell everyone that we’ll be practicing social distancing, so we will not be knocking on doors.

The program has been very well received, and it raises morale, not only with the citizens but also the officers.


West Palm Beach, FL Police Assistant Chief Sarah Mooney:

Conducting Welfare Checks on Vulnerable Community Members

We established a small task force with our Fire Department to do welfare checks at our local assisted living facilities, to proactively offer support to our most vulnerable residents.

We continue to be active and visible in our community, but we are also taking precautions to properly utilize PPE and follow CDC guidelines in order to keep everyone safe.


Saco, ME Police Chief Jack Clements:

School Resource Officers Read Children’s Books on Video

Our School Resource Officers are still maintaining contact with students through Zoom meetings, and they are assisting with delivering lunches to students who are part of the free lunch program. The SROs also came up with a plan where department employees are recorded on video reading books for younger children.

SROs also are partnered with our local “Age Friendly Saco” organization where they reach out by phone to our elderly population to ensure they are okay during these challenging times. If there are any concerns, SPD dispatches an officer to do a welfare check while wearing PPE and maintaining social distancing.

Here is a video of Saco Police SRO Morgan Royle reading “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”


Milton, GA Police Chief Rich Austin:

Sharing Messages of Reassurance and Community Support

“We have been posting reassuring messages on social media that the Police Department is still out every day, fulfilling our mission to keep our citizens safe. The message that we are still just a phone call away seemed to be very reassuring to the community. We have also been quick to thank members of our community through social media for their various showings of support, such as the donation of homemade masks to our officers.” 



5.  Police are using social media to thank the community.

Metropolitan Nashville, TN Police Department:

A Video Message from Chief Anderson

Chief Steve Anderson recently shot a video, which was then posted on social media, thanking members of the community for their continuing support of the men and women of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department during the tornadoes in early March and the coronavirus pandemic. “I am grateful for this opportunity to ask you to join me in continuing to thank our city’s police officers for their incredible work over the past seven weeks,” the Chief said.


Palo Alto, CA Police Department

#MomentofGratitude Campaign to Thank First Responders

The Palo Alto Police Department is participating in the #MomentofGratitude campaign, which involves sharing notes on social media thanking first responders and others for their service on the frontlines of the pandemic.


Boca Raton, FL Police Foundation

#BackingBocasFinest Campaign

The Boca Raton Police Foundation started the #BackingBocasFinest social media campaign. Residents can show support for the Boca Raton Police Department by decorating a shield and posting the image on social media. 



The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.

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