Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Our First Responders?

Humanizing the Badge Through Social Media

Getting to assist my first responder groups in learning how to decrease stress, build resiliency, and reduce chaos is truly a joy…an honor I do NOT take lightly.

So what are some of the stressors that our first responder communities are facing today? 

Sadly, the stressors that most of our first responders face will NOT be understood by the general public as they see and experience situations most of us thankfully will never be exposed to, however two of the biggest stressors most first responders face revolve around:

  • First Responder Personal Safety: Where once violence acts towards our first responders were a rare occurrence, it now has become a daily occurrence. According to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial fund, here are the most recent law officer deaths in the  United States:
  • Public Perception:  Historically, first responder roles were considered a very noble and honorable position however today there are more Americans than ever before who don’t see this as being true (let me be clear…I didn’t say ALL people look at these positions in a negative light, but SOME do. There are many like me who will always consider it to be one of the most honorable and vital roles a person can serve in to help our communities to keep our communities at peace, stay safe and stay strong). 

Social media has played a large part in these two stressors that plague our first responder organizations. Whether it is through terrorist groups using social media to recruit (information available through the FBI HERE), threats to first responders in general through targeted social media (information on officer safety and social media from FBI available HERE), or criminals using social media as a way to share only their side of the story which can leave our law enforcement folks feeling like their hands are tied.  

So what are some first responder organizations doing to help with first responder personal safety and public perception? 

Thankfully many of our first responder groups are starting to use social media as a tool to turn things around by connecting with communities as a way “humanize” the faces behind the uniforms, phones, and badges of our EveryDay Heroes.

Here are two of my favorite social media sites that have taken very intentional steps to engage and connect with their communities:

Lino Lino Lakes Police Department’s Facebook page This group does a terrific job with interacting on social media with their community members. Here is an example of a Facebook post from 11/11/16 that took a very serious subject and presented it in a way that resulted in 171 shares and over 660 likes:

  • We heard a new excuse for driving over 4 times the legal limit and hitting two vehicles at a stop light Wednesday afternoon. The driver said, “I am upset over the outcome of the election and you should let me go home”. It didn’t work; the driver was arrested and booked for 3rd Degree DWI. Thank God injuries were minor.

Chisago County Sheriff:

  • Twitter Page Their “Tweets from the Streets” segments are a hoot to follow even if you don’t live in the area as they are not only humorous, but are informative to those that live in the community.
  • Facebook Page: Another thing they have done really well taking steps to use social media to “humanize” their team members so that the public can relate to the person behind the badge. In a recent Facebook post from 11/28/16, Sgt. Kyle Puelston wrote up a powerful story of a woman involved in a “verbal domestic” call. When she was offered a ride, instead of the woman being grateful for the assistance, she admitted she couldn’t accept because of her fear of law enforcement that stemmed from a Hollywood movie.

Rather than have a negative response to this, Sgt. Puelston took time to connect by sharing about his kids and their family’s involvement in doing foster care as a way to help kids that are in need of homes. Her response changed from fear to a personal connection.

Nothing about the situation or his job or who he was had changed…just her perception changed thanks to him taking time to connect. By sharing this Sgt sharing his story, he and his department are literally helping to change the public’s perceptions in powerful and positive ways. 

So what can first responder groups who haven’t jumped on board with engaging social media learn from this?

  1. Know that change isn’t always easy for any organization.
  2. Change takes time, especially when it comes to topics such as how to use social media.
  3. The most successful and engaging social media platforms are those that have their team members on board so be sure to involve them whenever possible. I have seen the most skeptical of first responders become believers when they see the positive difference it can make to their communities and the perceptions of individuals.
  4. Lastly,  know that efforts such as adopting engaging social media platforms can not only help communities connect and in the process grow stronger, but also help our first responders stay safer through getting the public on board with our teams.  

For the first responder organizations that have adopted engaging and connecting social media platforms…KUDOS to each of you! Your efforts are making a positive impact! 

What is your favorite first responder social media site and why?





Jen McDonough (aka The Iron Jen) helps organizations cultivate courageous leaders as leaders and team members will learn how to:
~ Build Resiliency
~ Become situationally aware of complacency
~ Adapt to change
~ Recover from setbacks
~ Reduce stress
~ Overcome obstacles
~ Removal of self-limting barriers

Looking forward to serving you.

Click on the picture above to find out how to book Jen for your next speaking event.

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