Facebook account helps Minnesota sheriff's office share tales from patrol
Social media posts tell stories serious and humorous from interactions of Goodhue County Sheriff's Office with the public.
RED WING, Minn. — Each day brings something new for law enforcement.
If you don't believe that, check out the weekly incident blotter from the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office Facebook page . The weekly update of incident reports has everything from news of bank robberies to unrequited love.
"I love what I do," said Deputy Jen Hofschulte. "I live in Lakeville, and they have a blotter there, but it's on a more serious note. When I started doing this here, it turned humorous on its own."
In a Tuesday entry, Hofschulte relayed a story about a TV remote control that was stolen along with some tax documents — "I picture someone standing outside the window changing this person's channels," she said — and another story about a DWI.
On its surface, the DWI is not a funny story, Hofschulte said, but she included it in her weekly update to make a point.
"That one came in through a driving complaint," she said. "A truck driver saw someone driving erratically. We want people to know — if you see someone all over the road, we want you to call us because we can’t be everywhere."
The blotter, really just a few sentences on each case, is full of items like those two: either funny anecdotes or instances where a lesson can be shared. But there are also items that illustrate just how different each encounter can be when deputies interact with the public.
Example? Well, here are a couple of recent entries.
In Pine Island, a young man was seen in a vehicle slamming his head around and honking the horn. The problem? It seems his relationship with his girlfriend was on the rocks. After hearing the young man's tale of woe, and talking to the boy and his mother, who was also in the car, the deputy asked the pair to move along.
The week before, a young man was riding a motorized scooter down a street in Wanamingo after dark while wearing all dark clothes and headphones over his ears. The deputy stopped the young man — who initially did not pull over because he didn't hear the police car behind him — and "encouraged (him) to make better decisions regarding his safety."
"It’s getting darker earlier," Hofschulte noted. "This person probably didn’t realize he's not going to be visible."
In addition to deputies helping people make smart fashion choices at night and playing relationship counselor, the blotter also includes updates on speeders caught, thefts, robberies, fraud cases, illegal campers, domestic disturbances and general disagreements between people in which the sheriff's office gets involved.
A man bought a used car from another person in Holden Township, and the car broke down as the buyer was driving home. The buyer called the sheriff's office, but deputies, after some discussion, advised the parties to work it out together.
"The humorous ones bring more eyes, they bring more shares," Hofschulte said. "That helps us push out our serious messages as well."
She said she monitors other departments and government agencies to find public safety messages that are timely, and she listens to the community to talk about things — like taking care around farm equipment — that the public has concerns about.
Of course, there are taboo topics. Anything dealing with children, especially in domestic abuse cases, is off-limits. And she takes pains to ensure victims of crimes are not identifiable.
Hofschulte spends about 20 hours a week working on community engagement and communications — everything from administering the Facebook page to setting up community meetings like the Coffee with a Deputy program — and the rest of her time is spent on patrol like the other deputies. And she posts much more than the weekly blotter.
While on patrol a few weeks ago, Hofschulte responded to a crash where a Ford F-150 pickup rear-ended a farm truck when, according to the driver's statement, "My phone rang and I only looked down for a second to see who was calling."
Hofschulte took photos of the crash, which show the cab of the pickup smashed down to dashboard level. And while the pickup's driver walked away, the post on Facebook serves as a valuable lesson about keeping your eyes on the road.
"I couldn’t think of a better way to get that message out to a wide variety of people," Hofschulte said, referring to the power of social media. "You’ve got parents showing that to their kids. The pictures are impactful."