KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The Kent County Sheriff's Department is developing a new team that will focus on producing high-quality video content—the videos will be used to provide more context and information in the wake of incidents of high public interest, and as tools for internal training and communications.
The seven-person team is training this week on everything related to video production, all of it at no cost to the department, thanks to the folks at Compass College of Cinematic Arts.
“It’s a privilege for us, because the sheriff's department serves the community, and so it was a chance for us to serve the sheriff's department and use our skills and our students,” said Jay Greer, president of Compass.
On Wednesday morning FOX 17 stopped by as the team was conducting a round of practice interviews—setting everything up and shooting the interviews, as Compass staff assisted.
“Transparency’s been a huge focus for us, and when events happen, being able to tell the story of what happened, it's imperative that it's timely and that it's complete,” Sheriff Michelle Lajoye-Young told FOX 17 Wednesday.
Typically in the wake of a major incident, law enforcement agencies will put out a press release, occasionally doing interviews on what happened, and sometimes providing photos taken on scene to the media.
The Kent County Sheriff's video production team will give them the ability to put out far more information, context, and reasoning in the wake of an incident—setting up a system that will allow the team timely access to deputies' body-worn cameras and dashcams. They will compile all the video, photo and audio assets they can and release it in a single video to the public.
“We've seen the benefits of a program like this play out in several ways. One of which is... something happens in our community, and we need to pivot quickly and communicate about that,” said Lt. Joel Roon of the Kent County Sheriff's Office.
But the team will also create content that will be used within the department.
“We have 700 members of the Kent County Sheriff's Department and they work 24/7. So the opportunity to do even a simple training in person would take us weeks and weeks and weeks,” Sheriff Lajoye-Young said.
They will be putting together videos to be used for training, as well as internal communications.
It's another step forward for a department that values transparency and its commitment to the community they serve.
“It is imperative that when we come to a call for service that the person that we're dealing with feels served, feels comfortable. And how can they feel comfortable if they don't know our work?” Sheriff Lajoye-Young said.