Behind the scenes
Mike Swafford uses social media to personalize local law enforcement
Mike Swafford has always been fascinated the mystery of what goes on behind the scenes. That’s why he said he is passionate about his job at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, where he serves as the organization’s public information officer.
“My job is to communicate both internally and externally with our teams and the public and to keep the flow of information going at all times,” he said.
Swafford, who has been on the job since spring 2019, said the sheriff’s office now has multiple avenues through which the public can engage with the department. “It’s a two-way street,” he said. “It’s not just putting out information, but it’s accepting information back.”
Coming from a 20-year career in corporate management and communications, Swafford said a goal of the MCSO is to offer an inviting environment to the citizens of Morgan County.
“Anytime someone engages with us, we want that experience to be a positive one,” he said. “They’re our customers, and we treat them as such.”
In addition to holding tours of facilities and providing a citizens’ tip line and a new mobile app, Swafford said his main goal is to make sure the organization is represented well and to keep the lines of communication open. One of the ways he accomplishes this goal is through a daily social media presence.
“In today’s age, most people have some sort of social media – a platform, channel or connection – so it aligns with our goal to meet our citizens where they are,” he said. “Social media never ends, so there’s no stop there.”
Since Swafford joined the Ron Puckett administration, the MCSO’s Facebook page has seen an increase from 6,000 likes and follows to more than 35,000.
“Facebook is our main platform where we put out most of our information, and now it has taken on a personality of its own,” he said. “We deal with a lot of serious stuff, but there are days that allow us to have a little fun too. We try to deescalate situations when we can – when people are battling with each other in our comments – we can’t control all of it, but we often use our page to be witty and humorous.
“It’s all done to remind people that law enforcement officers are human … These people wake up and want to do good,” he added.
Swafford said he enjoys getting a personal and behind–the–scenes look at the deputies who make up the MCSO. “I get to work next to them and see what their aspirations are and all the good things they’re trying to accomplish and why they do what they do.”
Being able to portray the good that goes on behind the scenes – engaging with the community on a personal level as well as relaying information – is what Swafford said he enjoys most about his role, and he believes it’s vital now more than ever.
“These are interesting times we’re living in, but our goal is to stay constant and interact with the public in the same way,” he said. “We aim to be professional, proficient and polite in all that we do.
“If we truly believe the sheriff’s office belongs to the people, then we ought to involve them.”