Eric Blanchard has always been a techy at heart. In 2007 he was working with the Sinton Police Department. He wanted to create a website for the department but had no idea how. After some research he started learning CSS, HTML, MySQL, and PHP with the help of a friend. Blanchard cut his teeth building websites by creating sintonpd.com using AOL dial up, before the days of high speed internet.
In 2012 he was hired as the Chief of Police in Aransas Pass, Texas, right around the time that he discovered WordPress. Blanchard was eager to bring the Aransas Pass Police Department (APPD) into the future. “APPD was still stuck in the 80’s as it pertained to their usage of modern-day technology,” he said. “This time around, I opted to go with WordPress.”
Blanchard was surprised by how quickly he was able to get ap-police.com up and running. “I have to say, WordPress is amazing and makes professional looking, feeling websites so easy,” he said. “After the base template was purchased and adapted and the graphics were created, I put my personal touch on it through information and a multitude of helpful plugins.”
Keeping the Community Informed with Daily Jetpack-powered Broadcasts
Most of what the APPD does through the website is accomplished through third party plugins. “The most useful and required plugin we use is Jetpack,” Blanchard said. He described how Jetpack helps him keep the Aransas Pass community informed:
Just to demonstrate how useful Jetpack is to us, we use Jetpack’s automated Post by Email feature. Every morning we have a scheduler that awakens Excel which runs a script through our RMS SQL DB. The data is then compiled in a human readable format and converted into PDF format for publication. That data is then automatically emailed to the Jetpack feature address and then simultaneously published on our website, Facebook, and our Twitter account.
The whole process is automated so that Blanchard and his staff can focus on fighting crime and protecting citizens. This daily broadcast is part of the police department’s commitment to transparency. “Everyday folks can see what is going on within the City,” he said. “The goal with our site is to be transparent and responsive to our community.”
Using WordPress Publishing to Solve Crimes
Blanchard said that the most effective tool they have for solving crimes with the website is the police department’s blog, or what they call their “police blotter.” Here’s how they do it:
This tool makes publishing information about unresolved or breaking crimes a snap. We attach photos, video, and link to crime reporting resources. It is nothing to get a publication out really quickly to our public.
Recent blotter posts include requests for identification of suspects in theft and assault cases, updates on registered sex offenders and various community initiatives.
Posting on the police blotter also helps to get the media involved in spreading the word. “All the media sources tune in to our police blotter and regurgitate our information on TV when we post,” he said. “We can now solve several crimes or develop leads on several crimes more quickly and efficiently than ever before.” The entire community has the opportunity to get involved when they know the details of the crimes the police are working on solving.
30 Minutes From Blog Post to Warrant
One recent example demonstrates just how fast Blanchard is able to get results by publishing on the blog. “On a more recent post release, even before the media rebroadcasted it, we had the suspect identified and a warrant underway,” he said. “The total turnaround time for that case from post to warrant was probably within thirty or so minutes. Further, Jetpack is the plugin that makes that all so very easy with their social networking connections for simulcasting.”
Obviously, building websites with WordPress is not Blanchard’s full-time gig, but he learned to be proficient in order to help the police department work more efficiently and stay in touch with the community. From time to time he still requires help in maintaining ap-police.com. For support he regularly turns to both the Jetpack and WordPress support forums, as well as ancillary support forums online.
Chief Eric Blanchard and the Aransas Pass Police Department are a fantastic example of how the power of publishing can keep people informed and bring criminals to justice. His story is a good reminder of why it’s so important to continue making WordPress easy to use. Contributions to plugins and support forums make a real difference towards helping the folks on the front lines to fight crime.