Orem PD Facebook page reaching community through humor

Lt. Craig Martinez uses humor on the Orem Police Department Facebook page to make its officers more relatable and approachable. In this case, Martinez photoshopped a “Hunger Games”-style beard onto a photo of himself to promote the department’s Sub-for-Santa effort, which allows male officers to grow beards and female officers to color their hair from October to December if they pay into the Sub-for-Santa fund. (Orem Police Department/Craig Martinez)

Lt. Craig Martinez’s Facebook posts often end with the same mantra: “Keep your rage in a cage, if it’s not yours don’t touch it, eat it don’t tweet it, hugs not drugs and smile … it confuses people.”

This unique signature is one of the many ways Martinez uses humor to connect with over 42,000 followers of the Orem Police Department Facebook page.

“I’m a sarcastic guy, I like to joke,” Martinez said. “I’ve always felt that if you can’t have fun at this job … you need to find a different line of work, because the interactions that we can have with people are so beneficial and it’s so rewarding.”

Martinez is a Utah native who graduated from the Utah Valley University Police Academy in 1998. After a stint with the Utah Highway Patrol, he joined the Orem Police Department in 2000, where he’s held a number of jobs from bicycle patrol and undercover officer to SWAT team member and detective, all leading up to his current position as public information officer.

However, he’s always run the Facebook page, which he said he started about five or six years ago. He also runs the Orem Police Department’s Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channel. Only the department’s Snapchat (@OremPD) is run by another officer.

Martinez said using humor betters the public’s relationship with the Orem Police Department by humanizing its officers.

“We’re husbands, we’re fathers, we’re brothers, we’re sisters, we’re mothers, and we want to show people that we’re just normal people trying to do a job,” he said.

He also said one of the department’s biggest goals with the Facebook page is informing the public. The department regularly posts updates about traffic accidents or investigations in progress, and a glance at any comments section shows consistent responses to questions and concerns.

“We want to make it so there’s a two-way interaction between us and the public,” Martinez said. “We want them to be able to joke around and ask questions.”

Another reason Martinez believes the Facebook page is so successful is because it allows people to take an active role in policing their community.

“Everybody wants to know, ‘What can we do to make Orem a better place to live? What can I do to make it safer?’” Martinez said. “Well hey, here’s a way: help us do our jobs. Be a police detective from the comfort of your own home.”

The Orem Police Department Facebook page often uses humor to help catch criminals. In this post, Lt. Craig Martinez edited an image of Pennywise the Clown from the movie “It” into the background of a photo of a suspected shoplifter to cover up a customer. (Orem Police Department Facebook page)

The humor also comes in handy when trying to catch criminals. In a recent post that featured a shot of a suspected shoplifter, Martinez edited out a customer in the background by photoshopping an image of Pennywise the Clown from the movie “It” over the customer. 

“Just doing stuff like that and showing people that we can be funny and doing those little things makes it seen by so many more people,” he said.

Martinez said posts like these allow them to identify a suspected criminal nine times out of 10, sometimes within minutes of posting. This lets the Facebook page accomplish what Martinez said is its most important goal: helping Orem police officers do their job.

“In Orem Police, we have 86 police officers, but guess what?” he said. “We have 42,000 followers on Facebook … We’re going to get it out to the masses and we’re going to identify this person.”

Some of the department’s most popular posts include its “Tattletale Tuesday” feature, which highlights wanted criminals, and its regular “Daily Shenanigans,” lists, which are compilations of petty crimes told in snappy sentences and tagged with ridiculous hashtags — #criminalslikeourpoststoo, for instance.

Orem Police Department Facebook Page
The Orem Police Department Facebook page often pokes fun at criminals, such as this post where “Blues Clues” paw prints were photoshopped over glaringly obvious evidence left at a burglary scene. Lt. Craig Martinez, who runs the page, said using humor helps the posts be seen more. (Orem Police Department Facebook page)

Martinez also uses the Facebook page to poke fun at criminals, such as one post where “Blues Clues” paw prints were photoshopped over glaringly obvious evidence left at a burglary scene. 

But the page does more than catch criminals or create a few laughs. Orem Police Department K9 handler Greer Haymond said the department commonly uses the Facebook page to request toy donations during Christmas, which officers then give to children during traffic stops.

The page also highlights the otherwise unnoticed good officers do, such as a post about an officer reading books to a small boy while another officer talked to the mother, who was a fraud victim. The page recently announced the department’s Sub-for-Santa event, which allows male officers to grow beards and female officers to color their hair if they pay into the fund.

All of this has resulted in an award-winning Facebook page. In April, the Government Social Media Conference and Expo honored the Orem Police Department with the Golden Post Award in the “Social media strategy to solve crime” category.

According to its website, the Government Social Media Conference and Expo is the only major social media conference for U.S. cities, counties and state governments. Its Golden Post Awards recognize social media used by local and state government agencies. Though no one from the Orem Police Department was able to attend the event, the trophy was mailed to the department and now sits on Martinez’s desk.

Orem City Council member Sam Lentz said the city is proud of the work the Orem Police Department does “not just to protect us and chase and catch the bad guys, but also just engaging more with the community and focusing on education and proactive protection rather than reactive action.”

Jennifer Eastland, a Provo resident who grew up in Orem, said the Orem Police Department’s humorous, relatable social media style makes the department approachable.

“You feel a connection between the police department and the community, and that’s so important, I think, for a police department,” she said.

She also said she doesn’t see other police department Facebook pages doing anything like what the Orem Police Department does.

“More police departments should follow in their footsteps,” she said. “They’re doing an amazing job.”

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