August 25, 2015

Kayla celebrating her birthday at RCPD.

The Riley County Police Department’s public relations internship position caught my eye as soon as I saw it advertised in the fall of 2014. I didn’t have any knowledge or prior experience with law enforcement but I was curious on how the police department operated overall and the role public relations played in those daily operations.

I was overjoyed when the public relations internship was approved for the summer of 2015 and I received an interview, eventually taking the position in late June. I would be working side by side with Public Information Officer Mat Droge or better known as “#TwitterCop” by my peers.

On my first day I learned the basics of the Riley County Police Department. The next day I jumped right in to my job accompanying Officer Droge to a speaking engagement at an assisted living home, the community relations program NextCoffee at Sharps Short Stop in Randolph, and going on-scene to 2 incidents that required a press release (a suspicious package and an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound). We had to work on writing the press releases on an iPad while he drove us between each event/scene and I quickly realized what a multifaceted, fast-paced, and unpredictable job the PIO and everyone at RCPD had. I learned to adjust quickly and by the end of that second day riding shotgun in a police car seemed completely normal.

While I felt like I had a lot of experience with public relations under my belt prior to this internship, I was surprised when I realized that much of what I learned in my college courses wasn't used at RCPD. I’m a junior majoring in public relations at Kansas State University. I’ve held editorial positions on the Royal Purple Yearbook and have had my fair share of writing and working on a wide variety of public relations projects in my journalism courses. I was surprised at how much of a leap a real job was from what I was used to in college.

The only aspect of this internship that repeated daily was assisting with writing the daily police activity reports for and area news each morning. The rest of my time was spent attending speaking engagements, going to events like the Riley County Fair, writing press releases, memos, and internal emails, and being prepared to assist with anything that came Officer Droge’s way.

This real world experience has taught me more than any college course could. I learned how to adapt to different styles of writing, speak knowledgeably on topics I’ve researched and been briefly educated on, effectively use social media, implement and improve community relations projects, and be flexible and adaptable for any situation.

My internship also showed me how much I take law enforcement in Riley County and the safe community I live in for granted. I had no idea the effects the police department’s intelligence based policing as well as its social media presence has internationally. I didn’t realize that crime has decreased significantly in Riley County even though the population is steadily increasing, as well as the hard work the department puts in to make this happen. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of the police department that makes me feel safe and proud to live in such a great community as Manhattan.