Some times social media is evil and destructive. Other times, it is incredible in the way it connects people, ideas and from an abstract digital world, something of real value is created – something much bigger than social media, yet would never exist without these platforms.
Some how, we’re not sure exactly when or how, we became aware of some Police Officers, near San Fransicio, tweeting about a stop at a local lemonade stand. It was no big deal.
Good tweets will usually always contain an image, and this one had Cops with kids. Not only was it a good photo, but also a good news story. Given the issues facing US law enforcement, we gladly retweeted it.
That was months ago and since then we have happily retweeted & shared Palo Alto Police Department’s lemonade tweets.
From then on we were lucky enough to be tagged in some of the lemonade photos.
Even from Australia, we could tell something was growing, something positive and oddly, about lemonade. Amongst all the tragic news coming from America, this tiny blip on our social media radar was not only growing, but spreading.
🍋 #CopsLoveLemonadeStands 🍋
This week KRON 4 News, in the San Francisco Bay Area, filled in the picture for us with new story above. We think it all started about June 2015 and has grown and grown.
The above is one of the earliest #CopsLoveLemonadeStands tweets we can find. The simple and successful idea brings police into communities they otherwise may not visit and to families, children and individuals they may never have otherwise met.
Soon, one of the founding officers announced that even big city PDs were joining the lemonade movement. And so hashtag use grew, it trended in different parts of the country until it went viral.
It is a law enforcement public engagement winner. So why is social media and lemonade proving such a success in the troubled, deadly, summer of 2016?
Why did this community engagement program really take off? Here’s our thoughts:
- The idea is simple. It’s small in scale: can just be two kids and a Cop to succeed.
- Any agency or family or child can participate.
- It’s introduced Officers and their vehicles to young children at a formative age, with a positive experience.
- It is an activity of interest to a particular audience: children and families.
- Younger children elated at the idea of promoting their Lemonade Stand will often have older brothers and sisters. Cruisers of today are fast, fully loaded and pretty cool: even to teenagers (perhaps the most important to engage).
- It is not at a school or a Police Station visit. It’s Cops coming to your community, your home and talking to your family and neighbors.
- Perhaps one of the most important things caught on camera by KRON 4 News, is a teenager getting into a cruiser for the first time – you don’t want teenagers to have their first experience in that back of a car on the way to the lockup.
- It is a social media campaign coupled with an actual event. Digital campaigns are less successful if done in a silo and not coupled with other events or p
- Unlike the #RunningManChallenge, this social media hashtag is engaging the public directly. While the Running Man and Ice Bucket Challenges were great, they primarily engaged Departments, Agencies, members and their families.
Some will say it is a waste of police resources: the kids selling lemonade are not the ones Cops need to engaging with. As always, we say ‘test and learn’ – evaluate, if works go for it, not, try something else.
In any case, we all have seen the results of how communities react if they do not feel engaged or respected by police. As many law enforcement agencies scramble to re-engage their communities in a positive way, simple, ‘Cops on the Streets’ ideas like #CopsLoveLemondadeStands may just be a winner.
Do what is culturally appropriate for your community. In Australia, lemonade stands are not part of the Australian culture and rarely are seen or done. While in Palo Alto, lemonade stands are as Americsn as Apple Pie!
In the UK, Police numbers have been slashed by tens of thousands of officers at a time when community engagement, is perhaps never been more necessary.
In resource starved environments, these sort of outreach programs become nearly impossible. Recent reports suggest that some youths in the UK will only ever see Officers now as they drive past in their Police cars.
All images courtesy of Palo Alto Police Department, California, USA. 2016