The following story was previously published on Lake Legal News.
Social media sometimes gets a bad rap, but it has opened doors for law enforcement they never imagined.
While most law enforcement agencies in Lake County have a Facebook page, there is just something different about the Tavares Police Department and Eustis Police Department pages. Eustis Police Officer Lauren Brown has created an alter ego — Major Trooper — who comes with his very own set of policies.
Brown has used the character to have fun with the community, both on Facebook and in person. Major Trooper has attended many events including the recent Georgefest Chili Cook-off, Family Fun Day and homeowner’s association meetings. “When he’s not around, people ask me where he is,” Brown tells Lake Legal News.
Major Trooper is a favorite of a local 8-year-old boy — his mom told Brown that when her son saw the character, Major Trooper made his entire day. “We like to show people if they’re having a bad day, the police department doesn’t just catch criminals. We’re here to brighten your day.”
The residents seem to love Major Trooper. “I have personally received countless positive comments from people that I meet in the community about our posts on Facebook. These folks range from children to older citizens. People like to see that we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” explains Eustis Police Chief Gary Calhoun.
Some may think silly posts on Facebook are unprofessional for a police department, but Calhoun disagrees. “I feel it is good for the community to see the humorous side of police officers,” he explains to LLN. “They see us more like real people if they can tell we have a sense of humor.”
On January 3, 2020, Major Trooper was borne from a gift from Brown’s younger sister. Calhoun was out of town and Major Trooper took over and quickly posted his new policies.
“Good morning to all and Happy New Year!!! Chief Calhoun is currently on vacation and just like school we all get a substitute. Major Trooper here and I have taken command of the agency and I will like to change a few things:
1 — We will be closed on Mondays. We hate Mondays and everyone dreads them, so it’s done.
2 — All meetings on taco Tuesday will take place at Tijuana Flats.
3 — Friday’s dress down day uniform will be Hawaiian shirts, shorts and crocs.
4 — The only donuts that will be allowed are glazed and sprinkles. Sprinkles are for winners.
5 — The Fire Department will cook us dinner and admit that cops are awesome and wash all patrol vehicles.
This is the way and I have spoken!!!”
The Facebook post received numerous comments, reactions and shares and when Calhoun got back into town, he was quick to make his feelings known with a short video. The video, lasting only 5 seconds shows Calhoun walking to the door of his office and rolling Major Trooper’s helmet down the hall like a bowling ball.
But just two days later, Calhoun conceded with a new video. He states, “Due to the popularity of Major Trooper, I have decided to reinstate him to full duty and immediately implement policy No. 5,” which happens to be his favorite. “My personal favorite is the firefighters washing the police vehicles,“ Calhoun tells LLN.
When Calhoun reinstated Major Trooper, it caught the attention of Tavares Police Sgt. Sarah Coursey, who is one of the women behind TPD’s extremely popular Facebook page. The post prompted the following exchange:
Tavares Police Department: Hmmm Maybe Chief [Stoney] Lubins needs to see these polices.
Eustis Police Department: If he needs a uniform demo test we will be happy to AOA (assist on arrival).
Tavares Police Department: Eustis Police Department let’s make this happen — have your people get with our people.
Eustis Police Department: Agreed.
Marilyn M. Aciego (Editor-in-Chief LLN): Lake Legal News needs to be notified of any demos in advance, please. The cooperation of both Eustis Police Department and Tavares Police Department is appreciated.
Eustis Police Department: Marilyn M. Aciego our Public Relations Team will make it happen.
Tavares Police Department: Let’s make this happen.
And it did.
On a quiet Wednesday a few weeks ago LLN was invited to witness the meeting of Major Trooper and Capt. Yoda. LLN toured the new Tavares Public Safety building as Captain Yoda and Major Trooper shared coffee, donuts (with sprinkles, because sprinkles are for winners,) chickie nuggies, took over Chief Stoney Lubins’ office and most importantly forged a friendship. Expect to see more of Major Trooper and Captain Yoda on a Facebook page near you.
Coursey has been one of the women behind the page for about four years, and when the page became extremely popular, School Resource Officer Melissa Robinson came along for the ride. The pair shares everything from memes, events and wanted suspects.
Coursey said she enjoys interacting with the community, “We’re not just a badge and a uniform. [Social media] has made us more approachable.”
Coursey also has the blessing of Lubins, “The purpose is to reach a lot of the community,” he says. “It’s so easy for us to reach so many [people] at the same time.”
Using the Facebook page to identify suspects has been very successful for TPD. Coursey estimates the department has identified at least 90 percent of the suspects they have posted, “There has only been one or two [we haven’t identified,]” she tells LLN.
“It has been extremely effective in putting wanted suspects out [in the public,]” Lubins notes.
Coursey plans on running the TPD page the way she always has. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Lubins agrees, “We want to let [the public] know we are people.”