The Lake County Sheriff's Office participation in a live cable show was not about making reality TV stars out of the 10 deputies and detectives who appeared on camera. No, being part of A&E Network's "LivePD" was about building a positive image, transparency and making connections.
Pulling back the curtain a bit and revealing a little more of yourself to show who you are, what you do and how you do it -- warts and all -- can lead to better understanding for everyone involved.
In that respect, Sheriff Mark Curran sees his department's six-week presence on the show in July and August as a success.
"I look at the comments on social media and it's very positive," Curran told our Lee Filas last week. "I think people are proud of the sheriff's office. And I encourage other law enforcement to embrace the idea and not run from these opportunities when they have the chance."
Finding creative ways to reach out and continuing to break down barriers between police and residents are crucial. If a reality cable TV show about cops on the beat can spark a little conversation and some goodwill, so be it.
Police departments everywhere know it's important to find ways to learn more about the people in the communities they serve and to let residents see the men and women behind the badges. Many have been active for years in creating local events such as National Night Out, citizen police academies, police dog demonstrations and other efforts that aim to create more positive interactions.
It's no secret that relationship has been strained at times in recent years because of several highly publicized police-involved shootings that have sparked backlashes across the country. Technology and social media have played a role in that, but they are also tools police are using to make inroads in their communities.
During Lake County's appearance on "LivePD," some camera crews went on the road with police, while others climbed in boats and patrolled the Chain O' Lakes with the sheriff's marine unit. Viewers watched as the reality-based show followed police officers responding to calls in the community and provided a glimpse into what it's like to be a cop on the job.
Viewers also got to know the officers as people. Featured sheriff's personnel report viewers are following them on Twitter and making friend requests on Facebook.
Deputy Rebecca Loeb, who was known on the show for her pink handcuffs, has more than 5,000 Twitter followers and says she receives messages every day.
That's the kind of response that, when you have a good story to tell and good people to tell it, makes it worth the risk of opening up and revealing more about your police department and its role in the community.