Standing in the parking lot of the RaceTrac in Cumming on Thursday morning, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Doug Rainwater is ready for action.
Dressed in his full uniform, vest, badge, cuffs and sidearm, he rehearses talking points in his head, waits for his cue and when the cameras start rolling, jumps in.
“Hello Forsyth County, this is Deputy Doug,” Rainwater says to the camera. “The summer is upon us, today we're going to talk about one of the most important public service announcements that we'll make, and that's in reference to a hot car. It only takes just a few minutes, within 10 minutes, for a car to become deadly."
Over the last month, the sheriff’s office has embarked on a new effort to engage with community members online with videos explaining Georgia law enforcement topics in a series called “Deputy Doug Presents.”
So far, the series has focused mainly on traffic issues that
are seen as important in the community, like turn signal use, how to merge, how
to use crosswalks and what “Don’t Block the Box” means.
On Facebook, the videos get thousands of views and hundreds of comments from local residents voicing their support.
As the sheriff’s office’s main spokesman, Rainwater said that he’s grown accustomed to being in front of a camera, but the process of learning how to film and produce videos has been an interesting challenge.
"It's been fun and it's been a challenge. I'm used to taking questions and giving the answer spur of the moment," he said before Thursday’s shoot. "The first one that we did, block the box, was easy because it was the first one and it was just a few takes. But then as we made more, it became a little bit more difficult because then we were trying to structure it more effectively and get our message out."
Rainwater said that as they move towards different law enforcement topics, the public could begin to see other deputies from other specialized units could be called in to stand in front of the camera and share their expertise.
"We're going to always be evolving, with different stories and different situations," he said.
According to Rainwater, this method of engaging the public is inevitable for any modern law enforcement agency that wants to connect with an increasingly digitally-focused public or younger generation of community members, who they rely on for help and support.
"It really touches a lot of people very quickly, and it's just a great tool we use not just to our benefit, but so that the citizens of Forsyth County can stay informed too," he said. "This isn't about me; it's about the sheriff's office and how we can interact with our citizens one day a week for a minute and 20 seconds."
By pushing out original, high-quality content that people will actually watch and interact with, rather than just scroll past, they hope to inform the public on things the community wants to know about.
"We're trying to get everything in under a minute while getting the message across," he said. "Not too many people are going to look at Facebook and click on a video for two minutes, they're not. Nobody has time.”
Videos from this series are published on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts about once a week on “Traffic Law Tuesday.”
But soon the series will move beyond just covering traffic laws and into different topics that are suggested by the community.
"There's only about 10 or 12 different traffic laws that people get excited about and once you extinguish those 12 topics, then you are talking about stuff that nobody cares about," Rainwater said. "We can do Traffic Law Tuesday for probably two months with a pretty good audience going, ‘oh wow, I didn't know that,’ but after that … you're going to be going into areas where it's going to be kind of silly."
Opening the series up to a range of topics, they hope to ensure the engagement and longevity of the series.
On Thursday, Rainwater and his film crew of part-time deputy/videographer Justin Webb and sheriff’s office Director of Communications Amy Thompson, filmed the next video in the series on the dangers of leaving an animal or person inside a hot car, featuring a real dog and child in the video to add to its realism.
By using real “actors” in the videos and specialized equipment like drones, they say that the point of the videos is reinforced for viewers.
"We're trying to give visual aid to drive the point home." Webb said during the shoot. "So if we are talking about a child in a car in the heat and we show a shot of a kid sitting in a car, maybe one plus one will equal two and they will think about that the next time they get out of the car.""You’ve got to do it professionally," Rainwater added.