Inspiration struck JR Gamez at a city council meeting. As the Redwood City, Calif., police chief listened to a developer tell the councilors that he could get more done if he didn't have to come into City Hall for everything, he wondered whether his officers could be more efficient if they had more flexibility with when and where they meet citizens.
So Gamez asked his department's social media team to figure out how to use online videoconferencing to make the police force more efficient and responsive. By June 2012, less than six months after that city council exchange, the team implemented Netop's Live Guide video and text chat technology. It cost the city less than $1,000 to implement and run annually.
Gamez says the technology is transforming his department. A resident who needs to talk with an officer regarding a non-emergency situation can now use video chat. So instead of sending a patrol officer to the neighborhood, officers who are on desk duty handle such calls.
"We found that it was freeing up our units. We have officers doing more priority work, allowing response time to be quicker to higher-priority calls," he explains.
City Manager Bob Bell says Gamez's improvements "have streamlined service delivery and added a human connection."
Video chat is just one of the IT-driven initiatives championed by Gamez, 50, who developed his technical aptitude working on tech-related police projects while he was an officer. The department also uses Twitter, Facebook, a Google blog, a YouTube channel, a Flickr page and a Vimeo video channel.