You may not know every officer who makes an arrest in our city, but if you follow the Barrie police department's social media, you may know of one smiling face that lets us know when the bad guys are caught.
Const. Sarah Bamford is the Barrie Police Service’s media relations officer and handles many of the corporate communications at the local headquarters.
The 39-year-old officer has been in policing for 10 years with seven of those being in Barrie.
Bamford admits that while she may have only a decade of experience, in that time the world of serving and protecting has changed a lot.
“Policing has changed significantly and it continues to do so, but we just grow with that change,” said Bamford. “Social media has become the No. 1 investigative tool nowadays, it seems.
"As you can see from our website, any of our social-media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we utilize social media to reach the public and in doing that we have a lot of our crimes solved within a matter of days," she added. "We’re very fortunate to reach out to not only people in our community, but beyond our city potentially worldwide.”
With the many benefits of social media come pitfalls as well and being careful in any post is crucial. That’s true nowhere more than in that of our local enforcers, as one slip up could blow a case and/or hurt a victim and their family.
“Our job is very unique and, of course, any information we put out has to be carefully looked at,” said Bamford. “We need to keep any investigation and the integrity of that investigation protected and that is why certain informational pieces cannot always be released.
"Some folks may at times find that frustrating, but that’s where we hope they’ll stop and consider the victims in crimes and it is the victims who are our No. 1 priority," she added. "We need to make sure there is no re-victimizing; so all that is kept in mind when we do post.”
The social-media element to Barrie police is full of notices on arrests and warrants, video screenshots of potential suspects and even the fun side of the police when they are involved in the many local events and charities they take part in, there is one thing the social media is not for.
“We have a lot of tips that come in through Crime Stoppers which is the No. 1 way to submit a tip, especially for those who want to remain anonymous,” said Bamford. “With technology advancing every day, it’s not just picking up the phone and sending in a tip, you can submit a tip online as well.
"But what we really try to stress with the community and our social media followers is that you can’t submit a tip through a direct message or private message, Crime Stoppers is the avenue to do that and reporting a crime is still through calling 911.”
With so many jobs to do under her title, today was one of the more hectic days as dealing with the media is another aspect. A major press conference doesn’t get itself ready and that’s where the media relations officer kicked it in to high gear.
“As I said, the communications department is unique and it isn’t all social media,” said Bamford. “We have press conferences that allow us to invite the media in for a mass intake of information, there are media releases that are sent out to keep our community informed of crime prevention initiatives and on days like today with the big presser that took place it all happens at nearly the same time; so today is one of the busier days for sure.”
As busy and hectic as policing is and despite the many changes in how the job is done, Bamford is grateful to be stationed where she is.
“The Barrie Police Service is a fantastic police service to work for,” she said. “We have great members within our service our command staff are supportive and most importantly are the members of our community; they are without a doubt what makes this job what we signed up for.
"When I talk about policing the community, it is a shared responsibility and its takes everyone to make our city safer. Personally, I am filled with pride knowing that we have the trust and confidence of members of our community; it makes the job very worthwhile to do.”