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The CNC produces journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties for about a dozen media partners including newspapers, radio and television stations and magazines.

Through his podcast, Sarasota's police chief connects with his city

Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche was appointed in April 2022 and is the department’s first Hispanic chief of police.
Sarah Owens
/
Community News Collaborative
Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche was appointed in April 2022 and is the department’s first Hispanic chief of police.

Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche launches the project as a means to speak directly to the people his department serves.

Once a month, Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche takes a seat in front of a microphone and talks shop.

The end result, a podcast called Chat with the Chief, is meant to expand the Sarasota Police Department’s outreach strategy and humanize law enforcement.

“When I’m out and about, people actually come up to me and they say they listened to my podcast or they’ve watched my podcast on YouTube,” said Troche, who was named chief in 2022. “People in the community definitely appreciate getting the information, and really every day I’m handing out a card, either for the podcast or my business card, and just trying to get more people to listen and give input. “

Troche began the podcast in March 2023 after seeing his daughters, who are in their 20s, listen to podcasts while going about their normal activities. There are eight episodes available with more to come.

“Law enforcement agencies must engage with community members in this way, because we’re living in this fast-paced, real-time digital age where citizens expect real-time responses. They expect information immediately.”
Kaitlyn Perez, senior director of communications and marketing for the National Policing Institute

“I saw the way they’re able to basically do their business throughout the day, whether they’re working out or cooking, without being disrupted,” Troche said. “So, then I thought, well, how awesome would it be if we could do a podcast focused on topics that concern citizens within the city of Sarasota.”

Not surprisingly, his episode on roundabouts and the police department’s traffic-enforcement unit drew the biggest audience on YouTube, about 150 views, though the show is also downloadable on Apple, Spotify, iHeart Radio and other podcast sites.

In addition to traffic and roundabouts, the Homeless Outreach Team, technology and its impact on students and the Patrol Division have been episode topics. He has also talked about recruiting, the Marine Patrol, the recently formed Community Relations Unit and the holiday season with the Support Services Division.

Troche is intentional about featuring either a member of these divisions or a community leader in each episode, allowing listeners to get familiar with those tasked with enforcing the law.

Man and woman smiling into the camera, sitting behind microphones
Sarah Owens
/
Community News Collaborative
Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche and Cynthia McLaughlin, the department’s public information officer, recorded the latest podcast in early January.

“So really, we’re just trying to highlight and humanize our employees to the community,” Troche said, “and then cover topics that they would normally ask in a town forum.”

While the podcast is a recent addition locally, they’re not the only law enforcement agency working with technology to deepen connections with the community. Kaitlyn Perez, senior director of communications and marketing for the National Policing Institute, says the use of such tools has become as common to police work as a radar gun or a walkie-talkie.

“Law enforcement agencies must engage with community members in this way, because we’re living in this fast-paced, real-time digital age where citizens expect real-time responses. They expect information immediately,” said Perez, who formerly served as community affairs director for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. “Agencies that are not doing that kind of work are missing an opportunity to communicate with the residents that they serve.”

However, she notes that social media comes with responsibility, and agencies should be conscious of the impact they can have. Perez attributes this to the rising trend of agencies hiring more communications leadership positions to help guide them in these situations.

“You’ve got to be really smart about how you utilize social media,” she said. “I would always encourage a law enforcement agency to utilize social media for dialogue and as a two-way communications tool.”

Listeners can subscribe to Chat with the Chief on multiple streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and iHeart Radio. Click here for the complete list.

Sarah Owens is a reporter for the Community News Collaborative. Connect with her at slowens@cncfl.org.