Sheriff patrols world of video


Finds project to be quite arresting; catching the feeling

With the new craze going around, in which law enforcement agencies produce lip sync videos as public relations tools, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office staff pulled together to produce a video that has drawn attention and praise.

The Sheriff’s entry was filmed by public information officer Kayla Seratto with her department-issued iPhone and edited through free apps to the musical beat of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling.”

“For the most part, I recorded the videos, except the ones I was in,” she said. “The department cost was basically nothing.”

Serratto started to get the idea to do the video after watching several such productions online. However, she wanted to find a way to feature as many departments within the sheriff’s as possible.

“Several people in the department had approached me and asked if I had seen other videos,” she said. “I watched more and got excited about what the possibilities could be. As an admin team, we discussed how we could involve the department and the community and use it as a tool for us and to engage with the community. We bounced ideas around and it went from there.”

Sheriff’s Commander Tyson Pogue emphasized that no extra paid time or department money was used for the video.

“A lot of other agencies have used professional photographers and people that know about production,” he said. “We used office staff with existing equipment as a collateral duty. Along with everything else she had going on, she (Kayla) put this together with no additional cost to the department. We found opportunities where teams were already training, so we would pull about 15 minutes to film their clip. We weren’t wasting time or taking time from doing something else.”

Once she got the go-ahead, Serratto sent an email out to the departments to find out which ones would be interested in doing any part.

A couple departments replied right away. She assigned the rest of the departments, and it was up to them to come up with what they were going to do for their segments.

“The coroner’s office sent me an email almost immediately after I advised the offices we were going to be participating and let them know what the song was,” Serratto said. “One of our deputy coroners emailed me and told me, ‘We have the skeleton.’ I said, ‘Good, the first part is yours.’ I did spend a lot of times breaking down the song in different sections and thinking about what would be appropriate for our special teams to do. The coolest part was, although each section was assigned to each division, I asked them to come up with their own concept for it. I provided some direction. Everyone came up with their own ideas. The choreographed number the detective unit used, they came up with it all on their own. It was great to see what they conceptualized with what they were assigned.”

Once Serratto got the ball rolling it didn’t take that much time to shoot the video.

“I did my best to prepare each team,” she said. I sent them portions of what their video would be so they could take time to familiarize themselves with it. On average, each team spent less than 10 minutes recording their portion. For the most part, it was minimal in time recording.”

There were about 25 segments filmed for the video with about 22 with the Sheriff’s Department. Serratto also ventured into some community places like Cedar Creek Senior Living, Bass Lake and, of course, Yum Yum Donuts.

“A lot of the footage was drop in,” she said. “I wanted to highlight some parts of the county, including some that people always don’t get to see. We made sure to film in front of the flag barn, the Oakhurst sign, we filmed at the Frosty, Cedar Creek. For the most part, people were very accommodating. Pretty much, everybody said, yes. Cedar Creek started out with about four people to be a part of it. Word slowly spread throughout the facility and a lot of people wanted to be in the video. It was cool to see they wanted to be in the video.”

“Did you recognize former Madera Police Chief Gordon Skeels,” Pogue asked. “ He was on the far right with a beard.”

With the production of the video, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department has seen an uptick with their online presence. The video, which appeared on Facebook has reached more than a million people.

“So much of the current generation makes the connection online,” Pogue said. “This gave us a great opportunity to make a connection with that group of people that we otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to talk to or interact with.”

“We’ve gotten some great positive feedback from the community,” Serratto said. “That has been the best part. We have reached people in the community we wouldn’t have reached. For us, being able to engage in the community in a way that we wouldn’t be able to, we’re reaching so many more people than we ever would.

“Our Facebook page has a 12 percent increase in likes since we posted this video. We reached a million people with this around the world. It’s beyond the scope of what we expected. The fact that we’ve been able to reach so many people. We use social media as one of our primary sources of communication with the community. In a critical incident, we are able to reach more people because they are engaged with us on social media. It goes beyond the scope of doing something funny and exciting and jumping on the craze. We are able to interact with our community on a larger scale.”

Before the they lit the green light on the video, Pogue, Serratto and Lieutenant Patrick Majeski talked amongst themselves to figure out what the benefits of doing the video were.

“There’s so many benefits out there and the cost to us is essentially nothing,” Pogue said. “Just time and effort. Kayla put forth significant time and effort into it, but the end result was worth every ounce of sweat she put into it. She did an amazing job. Even the people that did an individual segment, since it was their segment and they came up with the idea, they took extreme pride and ownership over their segment. Overall, you have this huge department pride. It boosts employee morale. It was good for us, great for the department as a whole and great for the employees.”

On the day the video was released, Majeski received a phone call from Oklahoma about the video.

“I had a lady that I knew from a case we worked many years ago and she called from Lawton, Oklahoma,” he said. “She said she saw us on the video. That was the day of the video.”

“It blew up really fast,” Serratto said.

In addition to connection with the community, Pogue saw the video as a great tool for recruitment.

“We tried to showcase the special divisions we have within the department,” he said. “Other people getting interested in law enforcement are our future workforce. It gives them interest of staying and working in Madera.”

Despite the success of the video, Serratto had some worrisome nights wondering whether the video was going to be received well. For Pogue, he just wanted to see a good quality video.

“On my end, I put on a very brave face,” Serratto said. “I was concerned. I’ve seen a lot of good videos. A lot of departments have production teams. I have my phone. I don’t have a ton of experience with producing a video. I did everything I could to make it as good as it could possibly be. To get all of the positive feedback has been really encouraging. I’m just happy it reflects so well on our department. Everyone enjoyed the experience and I wanted to make sure I respected their time and made them proud. I think I did that. It feels pretty good.”

“I don’t know about everyone else, but I was thinking okay, we’re going to do this,” Pogue said. “I hope it doesn’t turn out hokey. We’ve done others in the past that did turn out hokey. It was still fun to do. When we got our part, I just thought I don’t want to look dumb. When it was all done, it wasn’t bad and it was super fun. We had a good time.”

In one scene in front of the flag barn on the corner of Avenue 12 and State Route 41, a deputy was filmed on her first day on the job.

“We had one deputy in the video and it was her first day,” Pogue said. “She was doing the chicken wing dance by the barn. That was her first experience with the department. What a great way to start your career. She’ll never forget it. When I watched the detective segment, I asked Kayla if she put that together. She said they did it all themselves. They aren’t dancers and came up with a number all their own. It was like some professional choreographed routine.”

By giving the individual departments to create their own segments made for a fun video with everyone looking like they were having a great time.

“It brings departments together,” Serratto said. “That’s why I didn’t want to have too much of a role determining what they were going to do. I wanted to give them, as a team, the opportunity to do some team building and come up with a concept on their own. Some needed encouragement. Each team, it gave them to get together and it was a positive thing.”

Near the end of the video, Sheriff Jay Varney could be seen in a kilt doing an Irish jig amongst department family and friends on the Madera County Government Center roof. It was also the only scene not filmed by Seratto, rather a drone filmed by Pogue.

“We got some employee families in there as well as some government center employees,” Pogue said. “We invited them to come out and participate, as well as the members of the community. It was cool to see them interact.”

While Serratto was at Bass Lake shooting the boat deputy, she came across citizens to include in the video, including others without Sheriff’s Department personnel.

“After I recorded that, it was kind of closing time at the lake,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to get some community shots, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. I just walked up to the kids working on the docks. I told them what I was doing and if they were interested in participating. They were all over it. I made sure they were 18 and got parent permission. They weren’t sure what to do. I told them I’ll play the music and I want you to dance. They did and they had a blast with it. The same thing at the Frosty. A few shops down, there was a guy with a Harley and asked him. It was great to see them get excited for them and foster in the community. The build up that created was a positive thing.”

“Ultimately, we answer to the community,” Pogue said. “Unlike the municipalities, they answer to the city administrator. It’s real important for us to be of the community.”

Pogue and Serratto are ecstatic about what they have seen with the online statistics.

“Our Faceback stats on the video is unreal,” Pogue said. “We’ve reached 1 million people. Engagements where people directly do something and we’re almost at 311,000. Reactions is at 51,585, comments are almost 4,000 and shares are almost 14,000.”

“We’re at almost at 480,000 views,” Serratto said. “That’s just on Facebook. It exceeded our expectation exponentially.”

Serratto also points out that shooting the video wasn’t a priority for the department employees.

“There were people that wanted to participate that couldn’t because they got caught up working,” she said. “There was one deputy that we tried to get three different times to set up a time to shoot and he had to go out on a call. That was a priority. This video wasn’t the priority for anyone. We made it at a time when people were available. Something that is important to us is interacting with the community. We are involved in lots of community events and try to engage with county citizens and do what we can to get out there. This was a way to reach people we don’t reach at those events and really show how important it is for us to be a part of this community.”

At the end of the video, Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney thanked the community for its cooperation and issued a challenge to the Madera Police Department, Madera County Probation and Chowchilla Police Department.

“I know Chowchilla and Madera Probation is considering it,” Pogue said. “Madera Police is we’ll see.”

For Pogue, the video has been a tremendous success.

“We hit all of our major goals,” he said. “We fostered huge positive participation with the employees. They are proud. On the department side, the extra likes on Facebook gives us ability to talk directly to that audience. The increase in exposure and connectivity is a positive for the department. On the community side, I think we made the community, itself, proud. We hit all three major prongs.

“It was just something fun and positive we wanted to do to show all of these departments. Most people have negative interaction with law enforcement. They are calling us on the worst day of their lives. We don’t get to interact with people in a positive way. This was able to spread some cheer through our department back into the community to show we’re human, just like everybody else, in a positive way.”