As the new police chief in American Canyon, Oscar Ortiz has been trying to meet as many residents as he can since taking over the position last fall. He’s been to local events and meetings, goes to local coffee shops a few times a week and, on Thursday, he took to social media.
“I think people should know who their police chief is,” Ortiz said. “This is another way people meet nowadays.”
Ortiz guessed that about 30 people joined in during his live stream on Facebook, which lasted from about 2 p.m. until 2:40 p.m. Thursday and included a tour of his office. But, according to the social media platform, the post reached nearly 3,000 users, he said. By Friday morning, the post had been shared 14 times, received 1,800 views and elicited 110 reactions in addition to numerous comments.
Most of the comments were from people welcoming Ortiz to American Canyon and thanking the officers for all that they do.
“I thought there would be more questions,” Ortiz said Friday. “There was a lot of friendliness ... but not a lot of questions.”
“Thanks for protecting all of us in American Canyon,” one commenter said.
“Thank you for doing this, it’s a great idea!” said another.
Larissa Exum, American Canyon resident, said that she thought it was a great way for Ortiz to introduce himself to the community.
“I enjoyed being able to interact with him and to see him in that setting,” Exum said.
“I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing, but I enjoyed the time tuned in,” resident Mandy Le said. “I loved the conversation. It allowed me, and others, to connect with the chief on a more personal level.”
Informal conversations like this make the chief and police officers more approachable to the community, Le said. That leads to a more connected community and a safer community, she said.
“Next time I see the chief I’ll be mentioning his bird,” Le added, saying it made her laugh. Ortiz’s pet bird’s name is Fuzzy.
The other not-so-serious topic that came up was Ortiz’s mustache – a facial feature he has had most of his adult life.
“Your mustache is like a pet. Tell me about that,” said one commenter who clearly knew the chief, teasingly.
“I’m used to that,” Ortiz said, calling the comments “funny.”
Ortiz participated in joking around with his viewers, but also made sure to answer questions about domestic violence, drugs and traffic in the city.
“Obviously traffic’s a big concern here in American Canyon,” Ortiz said, speaking into a cell phone camera. In order to help with this, he said that the department has had maximum enforcement operation periods. Right now the focus is on northbound traffic in the morning.
Motorists, particularly out-of-towners, trying to get through the traffic will sometimes pull some drastic measures to do so, he said.
“It’s fine until they start driving on the wrong side of the road, or (on) shoulders or any illegal stuff,” Ortiz said. “That’s gonna get you a ticket.”
Overall, he said, the Facebook Live event was “good,” but he thinks he could do it better. If he had known how few questions would be asked, he said, he would have been more prepared to talk about himself as well as the department.
Although it was a little uncomfortable to talk at a screen compared with face to-face interactions, Ortiz said he could see doing it again in the future, but probably not the near future.