Early in her career, Jamie Coba has shown an ability to expand the expectations of her jobs. And that hasn’t changed since she joined the Westminster Police Department.
When she worked at the Long Beach Fire Department, in what she called her “first big girl job,” she said there weren’t many difficult requirements.
“I started out just doing basic duties,” she said of her clerking position.
Coba, 27, began expanding her scope of work and experimenting working with graphics and the department’s online presentation.
“I changed the expectations for that job,” she said. “Now they expect (the employee) to put out content that looks good and has a positive message.”
When Coba joined the Westminster Police Department, she also broke the expectation mold. Her job title is Senior Administrative Assistant, a title vague enough that she could go in different directions. She took a path less traveled: the more difficult one.
Among Coba’s duties was to put content online, although little guidance was given. The next thing you know, she was creating new templates on the department’s websites with differing backgrounds.
“I have these new pages,” she said. “Everything has a theme.”
In just a year-and-a-half at Westminster, she is again changing expectations.
Coba has amped up the police department’s profile across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and NextDoor to more than 46,000 followers.
During her tenure, she says, Facebook followers have grown from 17,000 to 20,000, while Instagram has surged from 2,000 to more than 5,800.
She grew the department’s social media audience during the COVID-19 pandemic in a time when police were forced to cancel in-person community engagements, among the meat and potatoes of social engagement and posting.
Now that police are again able to put on and attend community events, Coba is a peripatetic presence, posting photos and videos of community interactions, ranging from Halloween festivities to Veterans’ Day observances.
“I get to show the side people don’t normally get to see,” Coba says of the police department.
“My favorite part is taking photos,” she said, adding that she particularly enjoys, “kids and their reactions and seeing police in different ways.”
Not all puppy dogs and pumpkins
Coba is a big proponent of positive community events with the police.
“It shows the genuine personalities of the officers,” she said.
But it’s not just about “likes” and “hearts” for Coba.
She realizes that while the upbeat events may provide positive reactions, the police must be newsy and transparent about the more sober things that affect people’s lives. Those can be anything, whether crime stories, alerts and photos of people who go missing, active crime scene notices, or weekly recaps of arrests and calls for service.
Coba said as a department, Westminster is still working to find the right balance and its unique personality online.
“I think we try to be as open as possible,” Coba said. “We try to be both serious and fun.”
While at Westminster, Coba has taken classes to improve her understanding of the best practices of police departments online and to fine tune her technical skills. It’s a steep learning curve, and Coba is enjoying the process.
A graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills with a degree in information technology, Coba says her career has taken her far from what she studied. Also, she never expected to be in public service, such as at fire and police departments.
Landing in Westminster, she says, was lucky, when the opening for her job “just popped into my feed one day.”
Coba says she would love to have the opportunity to get out in the field and report from the scene on breaking and harder news stories. But as the only person on the social media desk, that can be problematic.
“I think we have a lot more we’re capable of,” Coba said, “especially out in the field.”
New Westminster Chief of Police Darin Lenyi has talked about creating a team to work with Coba as the department seeks to increase its online profile and image.
“He wants to have a bigger team,” Coba said. “Right now, it’s just me.”
As she continues to evolve and grow, Coba says she’d like to stay in communications, possibly eventually becoming a social media manager.