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PD moves towards greater transparency

November 29, 2011

Katie Coffman, dispatcher for the Bishop Police Department, has stepped up to volunteer as the department’s public information officer. The position will not cost taxpayers any additional dollars. Photo by Mike Bodine

Despite the cramped quarters, the Bishop Police Department is expanding in staffing and on the World Wide Web.
The PD recently added a public information officer position to its roster and is making daily activities logs and press releases available on the Internet. The push toward increased transparency and public outreach by the department will not be a new cost for taxpayers, either.
“It’s not a paid position,”said BPD Dispatcher and new PIO Katie Coffman. “We all wear a lot of different hats around here.”
Coffman works with Pam Galvin, records supervisor, who updates the website.
Coffman said she came up with the idea for the public information officer position on her own and it was happily accepted by Chief Chris Carter. Coffman explained that both the chief and Lieutenant Fred Gomez are incredibly busy people and that Coffman can be more “accessible” to answer questions and disseminate information.
Gomez said it’s not that he or Carter do not want to talk to the media, but Coffman will be a more available to answer questions and update the public. When information is needed the most, such as during or after a large disaster or in the middle of an investigation, they would be busy with that situation and Coffman will be able to relieve the two from those duties so they can focus on the matter at hand.
Coffman added that the PIO position compliments her responsibilities as CODE Red coordinator. CODE Red is a reverse 9-1-1 structure that is used as a local emergency alert system. The system can be used to inform residents of missing child reports or boil-water notices. The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office used its CODE Red system, for example, during the Big Pine Center Fire in March to alert residents of the latest in evacuation and fire information.
Coffman will be attending training in December, specific to law enforcement public information officers. Coffman has earned an undergraduate degree in Inter-disciplinary Studies but no specific training as a media officer. She said the training should include time “in front of the camera” and working at a quick clip, simulating a real-life emergency and in real-time.
Taking advantage of social networking and webpage setup will also be covered in the training, Coffman explained.
Coffman moved to Bishop at the tender age of 7 and is now raising her own family in town.
“She’s going to do a good job,” Gomez said of Coffman.
To sign up for CODE Red, or to view the BPD website, go to the city’s website, www.bishop-ca.us, and click on the “Police Department” link.

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