Steve Williams sat in the interview chair and tried to act calm, cool and collected as the police officer opposite him peppered him with questions.It wasn’t a position he was used to being in. Normally he’s the one trying to cajole answers from people.Williams, the sergeant over the Arlington Police Department’s economic crimes division, wasn’t in any kind of trouble. Instead he was being interviewed late last month by Lt. Carol Riddle for an episode of Inside APD, the agency’s new video series.The department’s communications office started the weekly show, which now has five episodes and is delivered to the public via YouTube, the city’s cable channel and other platforms. For the department, which has developed a heavy social media presence, it’s another way to connect with residents, said Sgt. Christopher Cook, who oversees the office.“We use it to spread our message and tell the community about things that sometimes the media doesn’t pick up on,” he said. “We have a huge amount of talent within our organization and we will capitalize on that.”The hosts, at least for the first few months, will come from various units in the department. Topics will rotate, too, so that the community can go behind the scenes in different ways the department provides public safety.The first episode featured Sgt. Tarrick McGuire and officer Shelia Griffith and focused homelessness initiatives.Next came detective Taylor Taylor — yes, that’s her name — and investigator Diane Brown, who talked about missing persons and the state Silver Alert System.The most recent episode, released Friday, has officer Barry Samples interviewing Sgt. Donald Fulbright of the robbery and gang investigations unit.In the episode with Williams and Riddle, who supervises youth services, the focus is on tax scams and protection against identity theft.Among the advice Williams offers is that people should file their income tax returns as soon as they receive all the proper documents because once the IRS accepts a filer’s Social Security number, no other returns can be filed with it.“It’s essentially a race to the starting line for these suspects,” he says. “Once you file your return, your locking out other people from filing a return using your name and Social.”He also pointed out that department’s website, www.arlingtonpd.org, includes recently updated information on identity theft prevention and online security. Click on “Financial Crimes/ID Theft” under the heading for information and data on the left side of the page.Future topics for Inside APD will explore the SWAT team and the crime scene unit.To learn more about making videos, members of the communications office visited the police departments in Baltimore, Boston and New York City.“We used what we learned there to determine what works best for us,” Cook said.The first few episodes were a learning experience, as would be expected, but things are smoothing out.During the session involving Williams and Riddle, former TV journalist and college professor Lisa Parisot offered pointers like how to cut closeup shots into broader footage of the interview.Now the videos are shot and edited with Final Cut Pro X by Cook, social media officer Zhivonni McDonnell and civilian spokeswoman Tiara Richard.“We want every employee in the office to learn how to do it,” Cook said.
Patrick Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1