7 1/2 years ago I was given an opportunity to do something utterly unique.
In January 2011, the Cape Coral Police Department began an exciting experiment when it formed its Public Affairs Office. Public Information Offices aren’t anything new, but we wanted to do something different. We wanted to open up the Police Department to our citizens, to give them a look inside, and have an ongoing conversation with our citizens about what’s happening in Cape Coral and how we as an agency, can be better. We wanted to do more than just spit out news releases about arrests. These were lofty goals for two guys with no formal media training, no equipment, and a shoestring budget.
What started as two guys with no media background and some borrowed gear I brought from home became an internationally recognized model for media relations social media in law enforcement in just 2 short years. We started on 3 social media platforms- Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube and today we can be found on 12 different platforms. The experiment worked, and our Public Affairs Office proved its value to the agency, and to the community that we serve. Your interest in your police department, your desire to interact with us, to ask questions, to learn how and why we do what we do, to hold our feet to the fire, to laugh, and sometimes to cry with us, made this possible. Without you, we would just be shouting into the digital abyss. We cannot thank you enough!
For the last year and a half, I have had the honor and privilege of working closely with Corporal Phil Mullen, a veteran officer with over a decade of experience and one of our most highly decorated officers.
These last several weeks I have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Master Sergeant Allan Kolak, a 21-year veteran, an expert in DUI, Drug Recognition, Traffic Homicide Investigations (THI), and use-of-force, and who is a nationally-recognized instructor.
We have built a fantastic team who believe in the core principles of openness and transparency on which our Public Affairs office was founded. This team is comprised of sworn law enforcement professionals with incredible depth and breadth of experience who can not only explain “what happened,” but give you the “how” and “why.”
I spent the last eighteen months training neither subordinates nor partners, though I’ve been lucky to supervise and work alongside these men. My goal has been to prepare successors who would take our Public Affairs Office to the next level when the inevitable day came that I’d be needed elsewhere in the department.
As the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end," and that day came on Saturday, June 2nd.
Over the last two weeks, I have been transitioning out of my former role and at the same time, assisting Master Sergeant Kolak as he transitions into his new role in Public Affairs. Today, that transition is complete, and I leave Public Affairs in very capable hands.
For the second time in my career, I get to do something very few get to do and create something from the ground up. I am fortunate to be part of the leadership team that will build our brand new Community Services Bureau (CSB).
This is is an entirely new arm of the Cape Coral Police Department that will encompass programs such as our District Resource Coordinators- officers who handle long-term projects, crime prevention, and quality of life issues in neighborhoods. Our Community Outreach Coordinator who conducts programs like Do The Right Thing, Citizens Police Academy, and Shop With A Cop will now fall under this new Bureau. The Police Volunteer Unit whose dedicated members donate more than $1 million annually to the Cape Coral Police Department in in-kind services will also be housed in CSB. Finally, Community Services will encompass our new School Resource Officer program that will place well-trained, highly motivated, tactically sound Cape Coral Police Officers in Cape Coral Schools with an emphasis on the 3 pillars of school policing: law enforcement, education, and mentorship.
On a personal note, it has been a lot of long hours and hard work, and there is much more to be done. I am excited about the new challenges before me as we build this new bureau. I'm also looking forward to seeing new and interesting content from our Public Affairs team as they continue to help connect you with your police department. I can't wait to see what's next!
I want to thank you all for the words of encouragement and support you have given me over the last several years. Whether online, or around town, people often approach and talk to me and have always treated me me like an old friend. Thank you for letting me into your living rooms on TV, into your timelines, your Twitter feeds, and on your phones and tablets. While I won't be on TV as much, I will still be working behind the scenes to make you say, "that is MY police department and those are MY police officers."
It has been my honor.
About the author:
Lieutenant Dana Coston is a 21-year law enforcement veteran, assigned to the Community Services Bureau. He oversees the District Resource Coordinators, Community Outreach Program, Police Volunteer Unit, and the department's new School Resource Officer Program.
Lieutenant Coston previously served as a Patrol Officer, School Resource Officer, Detective assigned to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Patrol Sergeant, and Professional Standards Bureau Sergeant where he oversaw Personnel, Training, and Internal Affairs. He is the former Public Affairs Officer for the Cape Coral Police Department and oversaw the Public Affairs Office, Community Outreach Program, Planning and Research Unit, and Victim Assistance Unit. He served as the Department's webmaster and Social Media Manager, testing and evaluating platforms and technologies for use in the Cape Coral Police Department Social Media Program.
Lieutenant Coston holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History from Emory University. He is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners, the National Information Officers Association, the Florida Law Enforcement Public Information Officers Association, and the Florida Public Relations Association.