Citizens chat online with cops in Redwood City

You can chat with anyone online: friends, family, a potential new lover and now, even a police officer.

The Redwood City Police Department is trying out a program that allows citizens to speak with a police officer via online chat four days a week from Monday to Thursday.

During operating hours, it only takes a click of a button to launch what is called software called Live Guide.

This allows residents to ask questions directly to an officer. The two can chat either by voice or text.

The service is not a 911 substitute, but a way for people to ask quick questions for smaller disputes, according to Chief JR Gamez.

In addition to asking questions, residents can receive help filling out police reports.

The service, in operation since June 26, is staffed by officers not working in the field, usually due to injury.

One of the staffers, Steve Barker, a 13-year veteran who injured his hand making an arrest, told the Chron’s Henry Lee the service helps make dealing with police more friendly:

“Not every citizen wants a patrol car to roll up in front of their¬†house.”

Bernard Melekian, director of Community Oriented Policing Services at the U.S. Department of Justice, told The AP this experience can also cut long wait times when contacting authorities, thus restoring the public’s confidence in the police.

The department plans to extend the service’s hours to include evenings and weekends. If it is widely used, the service will extend past its 3-month trial run.