Anna Laurin, senior in mass communications, said the public relations agencies that spoke to her class have often said “every day is different.”
“They have agencies come in, (and they tell you) ‘every day is different,’ and you’re like ‘no it’s not,’ but it really is,” Laurin said. “Say, if some activity were to come up that we needed to go out and be a part of, then of course you’ve got to drop everything in the office and go out and help out the department somewhere. So it really just depends on different days.”
Laurin said the Riley County Police Department internship was one of a few she applied for, but she was particularly interested in this one specifically.
“I favored this one because it was local, it was in an organization that’s been around for a while, so it’s established, but also the public information side of it was new and recent and had more of an understanding of how to connect with our college students and with the younger community,” Laurin said. “So that was more interesting to me because even though it’s an older department, it understands the current social environment. So I kind of liked that, and of course it was paid so that was a bonus.”
Laurin said one of the most challenging characteristics of working with the police versus working in other industries has been learning what information she can and cannot share with the public.
“(When) working with public relations, you have to immerse yourself into that industry or field, so no matter where you go, you’re doing the same job but you have to understand the culture and the environment that you’re in,” Laurin said. “So coming into a police one, they talk about stuff that I have no idea what they’re talking about or since a lot of it has legal standards to it, there’s a lot of information that I have to be able to understand that that’s need to know information.”
Laurin said her favorite part of the internship has been getting to see what the officers are doing and what goes on behind the scenes in the department.
“It’s more interesting to be here and be able to see what our police department is doing for the county, and how they are helping out community members that community members don’t even get to see all the time,” Laurin said.
Laurin said she has seen officers interact with the community by going to elementary schools and meeting one-on-one with college students.
“That’s really one of the great things about this job, is that you get to see and put out there what they’re doing,” Laurin said. “Whereas there’s been stuff in the news where it’s just been bad, bad, bad about the police department. But here we actually get to put out all the great stuff that we are doing, so that’s a lot of fun.”
Matthew Droge, public information officer for RCPD, said Laurin has done well. Droge said one of Laurin’s biggest impacts on the public information team has been teaching him how to use Adobe’s InDesign.
Droge said he was familiar Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator but in previous years never had the time to teach himself how to use InDesign. InDesign is a page layout program used by publishers for print and digital publications, according to the Adobe website. Droge said he only had it because it came with the other two programs; however, Laurin showed him how he could benefit from using it.
“She trained me how to use InDesign,” Droge said. “I found that I’ve been doing things the hard way for the past two years, and with some of the things that she’s taught me how to do, it’s going to make things a little bit more efficient for me and for the department.”
Laurin’s proficiency with InDesign does not stop there. Droge said Laurin is scheduled to attend the Kansas Association of Public Information Officers annual conference and will work with Droge to teach other public information officers how to use InDesign. The conference is scheduled for April 30-May 1 in Lawrence. Over 40 organizations have registered to send representatives, including airports, city governments, police organizations such as the Kansas Highway Patrol and school districts.
“(Laurin has been a) huge help, more than I think she realizes,” Droge said. “That’s just one of the many things. A lot of it is time management. It’s literally impossible for me to do everything that the department wants to do, because there’s only so many hours in the week and I’m only one person.”
Droge said Laurin’s work was seen by the public through the Fake Patty’s Day page which was distributed by the RCPD.
“The content we collaborated on, but basically the page was all (Laurin),” Droge said. “We would not have been able to do it that way had we not had her help.”
Christine Robinson, human resources coordinator for the department, oversees the two internships for the department. Robinson said Laurin was one of three applicants for the paid internship.
“We had folks prepare a presentation and a portfolio style interview, more so to see just exactly what their skill sets were, and the interview portion and her presentation was such that it made you kind of stop and think ‘gosh, this might actually be a viable idea at some point,'” Robinson said. “So when you get somebody that not only brings a good product to the table but makes you wonder if maybe this idea isn’t something we should look at at some point, then it’s kind of hard not to bring that person on.”
Robinson said the strength of Laurin’s interview showed the RCPD how good their first experience with the paid internship would end up being.
“She has continued that, it was not a one-hit wonder,” Robinson said. “She brought exactly what she presented and more.”