Friday, February 27, 2015

Social Media & the New Era of Policing


Written by Katie Rentzke 

With the emergence of social media, often the first person on the scene of a crime is not a policeman or a reporter, but a person with a cell phone and twitter handle. Confronted with society’s changing ways of digesting information, the Palo Alto Police Department (“PAPD”) embraces the powerful tool of social media to connect with its community.

On February 6, 2015 the PAPD released a video documenting the 2001 unsolved murder case of Maria Ann Hsiao. Lt. Zach Perron was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene that horrific night. Now, he hopes this video and social media will bring in tips to help solve this cold case and bring peace to the Hsiao family. “People want to know about crime in their community and social media helps us update the public and provide transparency. We might not be able to release all the information, but social media allows us to release relevant details to keep the public informed,” says Perron. 

According to Police Chief Magazine, more than 62% of law enforcement use social media to assist in crime investigations and 40% use social media for community outreach and citizen engagement. The PAPD uses social media for both.  With their main sources being Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor, the PAPD regularly uses social media to generate leads in investigations and get crime tips on neighborhood activity. The PAPD also uses social media to get information out to the community. They live-tweet from a crime scene and use both Facebook and Twitter to answer people’s questions or concerns.

No longer does the public rely only on the press for their news source. This can be both helpful and a hindrance for law enforcement. Just as much as social media can be used to help with an investigation, it can be a source of rumors. Perron says, “If you want your news covered, you must put it out yourself. Our hope is to grow our following so people get the initial community message from the police department and not from local rumors.” According to Perron, the key to growing that following is establishing a trust factor with your public and setting the right tone in your communications. He points to the 2013 Boston Bombing as a watershed moment for social media and policing. 


After two men set off bombs during the Boston Marathon, the hashtag #BostonMarathon instantly went viral. The Boston Police knew that conversation about the bombing was going to happen on social media with or without them so they decided to embrace those streams of communication. The BAPD, having been on twitter since 2009, had an established trust with the public, which quickly made them a main source of up to date information. Their twitter feed skyrocketed from 40,000 to 310,000 and it was not through a traditional press release but through Twitter, that BAPD first announced they had suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in custody. The Boston bombing is now considered a textbook example of how law enforcement can use social media as an outreach tool.

Having assumed the role of Public Affairs Officer, Perron is using social media to its fullest capacity. This cold case video has generated over 80,000 views and 1,020 shares on the PAPD’s Facebook page and over 8,900 views on YouTube. In this new age of community policing, social media has become an essential location for local law enforcement to interact with its community. Though he cannot confirm there is a definite connection Perron says, “We are putting out more information than we ever have before (and) crime has gone down during my 17 years of service.” 

The Itch to Switch


Written by David Simon 

“Tricaster” is the new “Switcher.” Sort of like “Orange is the New Black.” Except that in addition to fading from one camera to another and bringing up graphics, the Tricaster can record video and play roll-ins and edit graphics and make coffee. And, it should be able to do all of that. It’s got more buttons than an elevator at the Empire State Building plus four twist knobs, two control arms, and a big joystick with another button on top. And if that’s not enough for you, you can use the mouse and menus for even more stuff. Unlike the old switcher, the “preview” buttons are on the bottom row and the “program” buttons are above it. Perhaps the Tricaster engineers were standing on their heads when they designed it. Dan Beaulier tells me he’s found the buttons for Mocha and Extra Foam. So how do you learn all about this new marvel and become a true Tricaster Master? Learn about all those buttons and knobs? Come now. The old switcher had a lot of buttons and knobs, too. Did you know what all of them did? Hmmm? I thought not. Neither did I. There’s a Tricaster manual. I suggest you read “War and Peace” instead. The latter has a better plot and more interesting characters, and you might learn almost as much about the Tricaster. Tolstoy was ahead of his time. Also, “War and Peace” is shorter. I think that the button on the joystick fires the phasers or the Tricaster blaster, in case Klingons invade the studio. Look in the manual’s index under “Klingons, invasions by.” Tricaster training starts soon. Now, where’s my latte?

David Simon is an instructor for the  Media Center's Studio and Zoom In workshops. He is also a Producer and Director of the public access show "Peninsula Backstage"  To read more contributions by David please click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nice Legs!





Written by David Simon 
You remember those flats with the legs that attach with screweyes and little wooden dowels, right?  Those flats that whenever you moved them or even looked at them crossways, the dowels snapped, and the flats activated the femoral autoseverance feature?  (“Femoral autoseverance,” or “FAS,” is TV-studio jargon for “the legs fall off.”)  And then we replaced the dowels with sturdy nails and so whenever you moved the flats, the screweyes would rip out and once again: FAS?  Well, Bob Sitzwohl and Alan Zoraster and I have over-engineered a solution to this problem.  “Over-engineered” means that instead of being engineered by just one of us, it was engineered by all three of us, who among us have exactly zero engineering degrees, none, zip, nada.  We considered big magnets to attach the legs, until Alan suggested that big magnets and electronic TV gear probably aren’t a good mix.  We considered Velcro™, until our Velcro™ prototypes exhibited FAS.  (And doesn’t knowing what FAS means make you feel like a pro?) So when you come back to the studio, you’ll find the legs hinged to the flats permanently (we hope).  Two of us, you see (not including me), have carpentry skills.  Just one leg per flat.  And the leg folds against the flat for storage.  Yes, you probably can rip the screws out of the hinges.  But we’ve tried to make that difficult, and honestly, the three of us would appreciate it if you suppressed your destructive impulses for a little while, at least.

PS: Now that the flats stand up, Erik Lind has been channeling his inner Mondrian to repaint them in more vibrant colors.  Last I checked, Karen Adams had stuck pink flower-shaped Post-It notes on them with suggestions for other colors.  Can you say “aesthetic over-engineering”?


David Simon is an instructor for the  Media Center's Studio and Zoom In workshops. He is also a Producer and Director of the public access show "Peninsula Backstage"  To read more contributions by David please click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Homeless Vets Get “Hand-Up” Not a “Hand-Out”



Written by Becky Sanders
MC Volunteer Bob Sitzwohl's video “East Bay Stand Down: Forgotten Faces” is live on Youtube and playing on our channels.   The video captures a four-day event that takes place every two years at the Alameda Fairgrounds.   The Military, the US Department for Veterans Affairs (“VA”), corporate donors and civilian volunteers join forces to stage Stand Downs across America which provide essential services for homeless and at-risk Veterans.

Nationally, estimated numbers for homeless veterans run as high as 250,000.  In the Bay Area, the VA reports that 7000 veterans are living on the street.  In addition to providing food, showers, shelter, clothing and new personal items like backpacks, the Veterans receive dental, medical and psychological services. Posted signs state “There Will No Arrests Made At The Stand Down.”  Insuring a safe experience is an important guarantee for homeless veterans, many of whom, not surprisingly, suffer from PTSD.  Social workers, financial advisors, lawyers and even county judges are on the spot to advise and in many instances provide immediate solutions to problems such as debt relief, clearing up misdemeanors, driver's license renewal and finding permanent housing and jobs.   Bob points out that on their own veterans don’t know where to begin to resolve financial or legal issues that keep them out of the work force. By bringing judges for 8 of the 9 Bay Area counties to the Stand Down, veterans receive immediate relief.

Organizers of EBSD do not understand why San Mateo has declined to send judges since the program’s inception in 1999.  Vets with legal problems in San Mateo County do receive legal advice but are unable to get on-site assistance from a judge in clearing up their record.  Other than that, Bob said it was amazing to see how quickly and efficiently all these people coming together could solve problems that seem insurmountable to a Vet.  That is the miracle of the Stand Down.

Bob has personal reasons for his involvement.  He is a Veteran and he was homeless in the mid to late seventies. He came out of the Navy disillusioned and lost.  Bob says that he can relate to homeless vets:  “Most of them really don’t understand how they came to be homeless or why they are homeless, whether it’s through loss of loved ones, PTSD or they went in broken and came out even more broken.  It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it.  I want people to empathize with homeless veterans.  They did all they could to protect us.  It’s time for us to honor that contract.”

To learn more about East Bay Stand Down visit: http://eastbaystanddown.org or feel free to collar Bob in the hallways when he's volunteering here at your local cable access TV station.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lifetime Warranty Gifts

Tonight is Christmas Eve and tomorrow many of us will be opening gifts.  Others of us opened our last Hanukkah gifts last night.  We’ve all occasionally stopped unwrapping to affirm to one another that the best gifts don't come in packages……health, love, etc.  

This year,  I’m very aware that I got five precious, un-box-able gifts over the months leading up to our second storytelling salon called “Foreign Correspondents: Immigrant Odysseys.”  Five people shared their personal stories with me and allowed me to help them shape 10-minute performance pieces that they gave freely to an audience at the Media Center, November 20th.

Their stories included daring escapes from oppressive armies and or poverty as well as amazing accomplishments - ranging from one septuagenarian woman’s first time in a voting booth to one man’s involvement in the first moon landing.  It was a great privilege to be let into their lives and their stories were gifts that they opened for me.  


Four of them presented their stories in the Media Center’s TV Studio.  One had to cancel because his traumatic story unleashed a terrifying wave of PTSD even 35 years later.  He allowed me to tell a story about him that included some of what he’d shared with me.  I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know these five neighbors of ours on a deeper level and I’m certain that the audience at our salon felt the same way.


If you would like to receive another gift over these holidays then I encourage you to open up one or more of the links below and immerse yourself in the stories – no gift wrap to recycle.  If you are surrounded by family and your time is completely booked then I encourage you to sit down with a relative and ask for their story. You’ll get a gift that will last your whole life.


Al Kuhn recounts the amazing trajectory of his life.....from his family's escape of Nazi Germany to a remote mountain in Bolivia...... and decades later helping the US land a man on the moon.

Liz Gulevich tells a captivating story about the empowerment of her immigrant mother during her sunset years in Palo Alto, California.

Roberto Munoz shares the details of his passage over the border from Mexico when he was 15.

Amber Stime tells how a bomb altered her life path from Ethiopia to Minnesota.

This is a story I told (with permission) about one of our storytellers who had to withdraw from the event due to the PTSD his story triggered.


The stories are part of a larger project called Made Into America featuring an archive of family stories of immigration throughout US history.  Come visit the web site and read about some of your neighbors.  You can even subscribe to the site to get new (mostly written) stories as they appear (never more than one a day).

shared by Elliot Margolies of the Media Center


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Access Cable TV Gains Unanimous Support at Sacramento Hearing

Under a ground swell of 54 support letters and more than a dozen speakers,  Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) 39, aimed at helping fiscally struggling public, education and government(PEG) cable television channels, earned unanimous 12-0 approval Monday by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee at the California State Capitol.
Speakers line up to show support for AJR 39 before a CA Assembly hearing Monday.
Speakers line up to show support for AJR 39 before a CA Assembly hearing Monday.
Assembly member Roger Hernández (D-Dist. 48, West Covina) authored AJR 39 which, if approved by the full CA Assembly and Senate, would call on US Congress to change laws restricting the way PEG community centers can spend money to help residents with training and equipment to tell the stories of their communities.
“It’s like having money for a library building and books, with no money to hire a librarian to order the books and keep the doors open,” said Hernández.  AJR 39 “urges Congress to allow states and their municipalities to determine the best use of public, educational and government funds.”
Representatives from across California attended the hearing, representing cities and counties, and access community centers from as far south as Long Beach to Marin County, Sacramento and Access Humboldt in the north..
PEG channels are known across the US for their commitment to providing outreach that informs viewers of local political news, community events, and culturally diverse programs not seen on regular commercial television.
Letters of support were listed from 54 different cities, counties, community groups and PEG access centers.  A lobbyist from the California Cable & Telecommunications Associationopposed AJR 39 saying if local governments really support PEG broadcasting, they should pay for it themselves from franchise fees the cable company already collects for their use.
Hernández countered with the notion that restricting dollars the way the current law does is like having medical insurance that pays for medical equipment like a wheelchair, but not the doctor.  He said US Congress needs to change the PEG rules, because they simply don’t make sense.
As an expert witness, Sue Buske of The Buske Group in Sacramento, said the restrictions enacted in 2007 have forced 51 PEG centers in California to close for lack of appropriate funding. While federal law requires cable television providers to give channel space to PEG broadcasting and ensured some dollars for equipment, the federal law has not been revisited since 1984, and AJR 39 if approved in the CA Assembly and Senate would ask US Congress to fix the rules and allow cities and counties the right to authorize funding in a more flexible way.
(Posted first on March 25, 2014 in Access SacramentoNeighborhood NewsTop News! by  )

Friday, March 21, 2014

A State Resolution That Would Protect Centers Like Ours

Annie Folger

On Monday, March 24, 2014, our Executive Director, Annie Folger, will travel to Sacramento to support a resolution introduced in the State Assembly that would protect community media centers that operate public access facilities and cable TV channels. Since 2006, at least 51 of those centers have closed in California alone and many more nationwide.

A new law passed in 2006, changed the funding formula for PEG community access centers to a one size fits all formula governed by the state Public Utilities Commission. Besides curbing the funding levels that many community franchises had negotiated with their cable operators, the new law only allowed funding for capital expenditures.

Assembly Joint Resolution 39, introduced by Roger Hernández (D – West Covina) would encourage the US Congress to allow states and their municipalities to determine the best use of public, educational and government (PEG) funds. Specifically, they ask Congress to allow franchise fees to be spent on operations as well as capital.

You can write to Assembly Member Rich Gordon to show your support for this resolution and amplify Annie's voice in Sacramento at this web page. Or call his Los Altos office at: (650) 691-2121.

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