Sgt. Ed Buns retired in January after 31 years with the department. His role as the department’s public affairs officer was filled by Sgt. Brian Robinson.
Robinson spoke with the Journal-News about the challenges of his new role and what changes are in store for his department in the future.
Q: You replaced a man, Sgt. Ed Buns, that had been doing the job for a while – how has it been going so far?
A: Comparing the job now to what it was before is comparing apples to oranges. Public Affairs is now only one portion of my overall responsibilities. We have combined the Training section and Public Affairs section under one umbrella on an experimental basis. This is the first time anyone here remembers such a combination, and as with anything new, I am taking steps at a controlled pace to see what works and doesn’t work. Overall, the two sections have a symbiotic relationship that has gone unexplored in the past. We are already seeing positive feedback and returns from the public since the two sections have been operating under one supervisor. The Active Threat classes we have been sponsoring are prime examples of how effectively the two sections are beginning to work together. We have tailored these free trainings for businesses, the general public and various organizations. This training helps us prepare the community we serve for possible life threatening situations, yet affords us the opportunity to personally interact in small groups with various segments of our community and establishing new, lasting relationships that didn’t exist before. We are working hard on thinking outside of the box and being more progressive than ever before.
Q: You guys just relocated inside of the building – why the move and what will it allow you to do better?
A: The move was meant to facilitate combining Training and Public Affairs and creating a more open atmosphere conducive to the increase in our work load, which we knew would follow. Prior to this, training was in the opposite corner of the building from Public Affairs, and also located out at the HPD range. The old Public Affairs office was in a high foot traffic area which we felt was not conducive to working and communicating as efficiently as we currently do. Now, I have personnel from both sections working out of the same interconnected space with fewer interruptions. Greater face to face interaction has yielded higher office morale and brainstorming sessions will spontaneously erupt while other work is still being conducted. Communication among our employees in these two sections is at an all time high, which creates greater work productivity and ideas for possible future community engagement and training projects have skyrocketed.
Q: How are you using modern technology to enhance the police department’s connection to the public? Can Facebook and Twitter etc. help solve crimes?
A: Over the last two and a half months we have been planning projects with an emphasis on utilizing technology more than before. Under the direction and support of Chief Craig Bucheit, I am placing an emphasis on digital media and social media as a means to get our messages out to a larger audience more efficiently.
We are beginning to have media outlets throughout SW Ohio use links to stories, pictures and videos which we have been pushing out via various social media outlets.
We regularly receive responses via social media to crimes that have occurred. These messages usually take the form of “the word on the street is …,” which of course can be accurate or mere speculation and rumor, but people feel far more willing to send us information through social media versus being seen speaking to police officers in the public.
Our latest recruiting drive has been a big experiment in this venture. We have put together digital fliers with bit links, QR scan codes, and even have links to recruiting videos in Spanish. All can easily be emailed out to individuals, organizations, posted on social media and shared and linked to by anyone with access to a smart phone or computer. The positive response we have received from the public has been overwhelming.
Q: Talk about your staff and some of their responsibilities?
A: I’m very lucky to have the staff that I do working for me, which includes officers that I deem to be the best in their field at what they do. We have a civilian community engagement specialist who is skilled in photography, Adobe, many elements of social media and all things related to digital media.
We are engaged in schools throughout the community many times each week with safety programs and science fairs, we help with neighborhood watch programs, provide liaisons for organizations, work in conjunction with the Greater Hamilton Safety Council to put on the Safety Town program every summer, provide guest speakers to organizations, work directly with the media as the mouthpiece for the police department, oversee all social media functions for the department, facilitate the drug take back program for unused prescription drugs members of the community want to get rid of and so many more facets of community engagement that I never knew took place before stepping into this position.
I also oversee all interdepartmental training of all 104 sworn officers and the court officers and our desk officers, making certain we meet or exceed state standards set forth. We coordinate safety assessments for area businesses, have been busy conducting Active Threat classes tailored for different segments of the community (businesses, general public, organizations), and also work hard at bringing outside training into our facility which benefits our employees and the community as a whole.
Q: What are some of the best and some of the worst parts of the job?
A: The best part of the job is having the opportunity to interact with the public on a positive note, and at the same time I have an opportunity to aid in the development of our younger officers into future leaders of the department.
The worst part of the job – not having more time to implement all of the ideas we have brainstormed to date.
I get torn in two separate directions at times. I may be busy in the middle of a training session when something occurs on the community engagement arena that necessitates immediate attention.