How Boomer Police Officers Are Connecting with Their Communities

This week’s “Thankful Thursday” would like to highlight the communication methods “Boomer Police Officers” used prior to the “likes, views and smiling emojis” that we all are too familiar with. Officers recognize that it’s also great to get a handshake, a thank you and a wave from your community.
On display at the National Law Enforcement Museum were tools police officers use to use on duty, which are now seen as artifacts on exhibit.  So what has changed?
Veteran police officers had to deal with paper driver licenses, walkie-talkies the size of a shoebox and radar units that had to be set up on a tripod on the side of the road. The current generation of officers on patrol have their own benefits and challenges. The use of technology works both ways. Social media has been an instrument showing both the appreciation of the police but also the hatred of the police. In the tug of war for positive attention, police agencies and individual officers have turned to social media to counter the negativity with questionable success. While these media platforms are an important way to engage with the public, they can not be the exclusive strategy. Some old school practices still have considerable value. Here’s how we used to connect with communities before the advent of Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor:


The best public relations strategy is to do outstanding police work that prevents and solves crime. No amount of positive social media postings will suffice unless officers continue doing solid police work that results in the arrest of criminals.


People still read, watch and listen to their local news. Police departments should not abandon these traditional outlets when adopting new media strategies. These outlets can reach a demographic that social media may not, and with a depth and context that exceeds what social media posts can convey.


Personal interactions are important to counteract the impersonal messages that show up in new media. A professional contact, an attempt to inject positive messages, taking time to listen and providing follow up will create individual narratives that can counteract impersonal critical media messages.

Although officers deal largely with people at a difficult time in their lives, officers have the opportunity to be empathic, to listen and provide gratitude (thank you for cooperating, thank you for making a statement, thank you for your attention) into most encounters.


The value of getting out of the patrol car can’t be overstated. Each officer should be equipped with business cards, junior police badges, 911 stickers or anything to interact and build trust with their community. 


A subtle hand wave is a great gesture that offers opportunities for officers to connect with the public.

It’s great to get the likes, views and smiling emojis, but it’s also great to get a handshake, a thank you and a wave as a sign of positive interaction with your community.