By: Emily Aasand

Campus Police VehicleStudents on the University of North Dakota campus have probably noticed an increase in activity from the University of North Dakota’s Police Department (UPD) this past school year, and if so, UPD can consider themselves successful. 

UPD had been striving to become more visible and more involved with the campus community, and social media is the perfect platform for that. 

Marketing UPD free pizza giveaways, launching the #BestCopsAround hashtag, and challenging University police chiefs of UND Men’s Hockey opponents to jersey challenges are just some of the engagement campaigns recently launched by the UND Police Department this past year. 

“Last year, when we were playing Boston University in the Frozen Four, we challenged their police chief that if they won, our police chief would have to wear a BU jersey, and if we won, they’d have to wear a UND jersey,” said Sgt. Danny Weigel, investigator & public information officer for UPD. “That Facebook post alone reached over 111,000 people. So the more active we are with communicating with people through social media, the more it promotes your page, and encourages people to follow you.”

Establishing camaraderie

Campus Police Officer“If we want to be relevant and continue to communicate with our students, our faculty, and our staff, we need to be able to evolve, just as they’re evolving through new apps and technology,” said Weigel. 

Weigel and his team aren’t afraid to address the negative posts that come in.
“We’re going to reply back to everything, and we’re going to be engaged with people,” said Weigel. 

UPD has found that being more engaged on campus has made it easier for people to reach out to the department for things they normally might not have.
“I want to be on top in social media,” said Weigel. “We’ve really tackled this and we’ve even gone as far as getting our Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, Eric Plummer on Twitter. I have a UND Police Department account and so does Chief Plummer, so if someone’s not comfortable reaching out to UPD’s account, they can reach out to us personally and it helps put a name to a face.”

Since arriving on campus in 2012, Chief Plummer has worked hard to build relationships with people on the UND campus.

“People are very comfortable with him, so his UPD account gives people the opportunity to reach out to him and it’s something we’ll continue to promote,” said Weigel.

Building a presence

Managing the University Police Department’s social media presence is essentially a part-time job for Weigel. 

“I’ve been with UND for four years and we talk about being able to communicate with students and as how we promote our message and we weren’t really doing that,” said Weigel. “I think we were being seen more as an adversary rather than a resource to a lot of students on campus.”

The addition of Chief Plummer brought about change to the culture, the expectations, and the goals of the department. 

“Shortly after he started, I suggested we get the department more engaged in the campus community by ways of social media, and he [Chief Plummer] was all for it,” said Weigel. 

From there, it was trial and error. 

“I started following other law enforcement agencies and really kind of took from their best practices and how they could work for us,” said Weigel. “The important thing was figuring out how our students liked to communicate with us.”

Industry trailblazers

“Having people reach out to us is great because it means we’re doing something well and we’d love to be able to share some of those things,” Weigel added. “Social media has helped us change our image and put out an image that we could be proud of and that we could build upon. It’s what all agencies should strive for.”

UPD has had inquiries from Bismarck’s Police Department, as well as from North Dakota State University’s Police Department. 

“I was in Grafton six months ago and gave them a course in digital practices and they since have developed a Facebook page; Walsh County also developed a Facebook page,” said Weigel. “A lot of the smaller agencies don’t have the training or the capability to send people to training like we may have, so it’s important that we get out there and help them out as well.”
Weigel is a licensed instructor who has developed a course on social media and public relations that he uses to go out at teach other law enforcement officers with.

“It’s starting to grow a little bit, but I think we’re leaps and bounds ahead of other law enforcement agencies when it comes to social media and how we engage with our community,” said Weigel. 

The UND Police Department wants to be the frontrunner for social media in law enforcement in North Dakota.