California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 16

#CopsLoveLemonadeStands Initiative Takes North America by Storm By Lieutenant Zach Perron, Palo Alto Police Department P alo Alto, CA – Two officers from the Palo Alto Police Department started a popular community policing initiative this summer that quickly spread across North America. Sergeant Ben Becchetti and Officer Dave Pecoraro of the patrol division came up with the “sweet” idea to use the department’s social media channels to ask the community to give the police advance notice when their children were going to set up a lemonade stand. An available officer or two would then swing by, buy some lemonade, show the kids their police cars, pose for some fun photos, and create some positive memories. The department first used their Nextdoor account on June 1 to advertise the campaign locally, and received an overwhelmingly positive response from residents. On June 6, the department created the hashtag #CopsLoveLemonadeStands, posted an invitation on Facebook and Twitter, and encouraged other police agencies to join in. The initiative spread quickly, and by the end of the summer, it had been used by 69 police departments in 23 states and 2 Canadian provinces! The diversity of participating agencies was remarkable, ranging from small local departments to county sheriff’s offices to state agencies. Even large city departments jumped in, with the Pittsburgh Police Department, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and even NYPD all posting photos of their officers interacting with kids at lemonade stands and using the hashtag. The International Association of Chiefs of Police backed the initiative and helped advertise it in early June, as did the California Police Chiefs Association. Over the course of the summer, the Palo Alto Police Department received close to 125 individual requests to visit lemonade stands – and their officers were able to make it to about 80% of them. The department posted countless photos of smiling cops with happy kids on their Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter account and received thousands of “likes,” retweets, and positive comments from the community. A number of television and radio stations picked up on the campaign as well, and created many wonderful feature stories on the initiative across the country. At a 16 California Police Chief | time when public perception of law enforcement is trending down in some regions of our country, the #CopsLoveLemonadeStands campaign stood out as a positive story. Along with other recent social media initiatives like the #WhyIWearTheBadge campaign, the public is able to get some insight to the true character of our nation’s police officers and see the good work they are doing in our communities on a daily basis. As it turns out, these sorts of social media campaigns happen to fall exactly in-line with the social media recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing. Cops visiting lemonade stands is certainly nothing new: as long as kids have been having lemonade stands, cops have been happily patronizing them and making kids happy for decades. The only unique thing about this initiative was that the police were asking for the community’s help in locating them, and on very public social media channels too. Everyone wound up being able to see the good work that officers and deputies are doing. Even chiefs got in on the action. In Palo Alto, Chief Dennis Burns personally visited a number of lemonade stands throughout the summer. In Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff Jeff Shrader did the same thing. And in Indiana, Chief Rick Hite of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was a strong advocate for the campaign on Twitter. In the end, no matter what agency, state, or country, the results were all positive: the kids made money and learned responsibility, business sense, and customer service skills; the parents were pleased; the cops got to take a break; and everybody got to meet officers on a personal level in a nonenforcement situation. But best of all, these contacts helped to instill lifelong positive memories of police officers in the minds of the children. And the entire initiative was conceived by two cops on the beat in Palo Alto! ■