This Is Reno chatted with Public Information Officer Bob Harmon about his role with the Sheriffs Office and how incoming University of Nevada, Reno students can protect themselves as they adjust to this new chapter in their lives. Thank you, Bob Harmon, for taking time out to talk to us.
This Is Reno: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what your role with the Washoe County Sheriffs Office is.
Officer Bob Harmon: I am a civilian public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, not a sworn Deputy/Law Enforcement Officer. I was appointed Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s Office by Sheriff Michael Haley in 2013. Although I work in words every day, I’m not sure I can find the words that adequately describe the honor it has been to work with the men and women, civilian and sworn, who serve at the Sheriff’s Office. They are a group of dedicated, innovative, caring, and enthusiastic public servants. Frankly, every day is an adventure and every day I walk out of the Office impressed by someone or something.
As you know, Chuck Allen is now Sheriff of Washoe County and he is committed to maintaining a strong connection between the Office and the community. Public Information Officer duties are now shared between myself and Deputy Jeff McCaskill. Having the two PIOs allows us to provide services 24/7 and have the resources necessary to incorporate the numerous means of communication and media now used by the public to receive information.
For example, social media has provided us with an exciting new forum to engage the public. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office presence on Facebook continues to grow and we continue to look for ways to provide information, using a variety of media, on social media platforms. Our goal is to provide our followers with information about developing public safety issues while giving the public greater insight into the Sheriff’s Office and the people who work here.
A little about me: I’ve been working in journalism and public service for 35 years. After graduating from the University of Southern California’s School of Journalism, I spent 15 years working in newsrooms at both KCBS and KTTV television stations in Los Angeles. In 1995 I moved to Reno and took a job at KTVN.
In 1997, I was appointed Public Information Officer for Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa. Since that time, I have served as PIO for the Washoe County Manager’s Office, Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space, and Washoe County Senior Services.
I began working part-time with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Community Relations Section in 2010 and, as I mentioned earlier, was appointed as a full-time Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s Office.
This Is Reno: With public school beginning August 10 and University of Nevada, Reno students starting classes, August 24, what tips can you offer incoming students who may be new to Reno and have to live off-campus? How can they protect themselves as they explore their new city and get the lay of the land?
Officer Bob Harmon: As far as back to school safety, first and foremost is for parents to have a conversation with their children about safety.
The Sheriff’s Office has adopted tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (missingkids.com) to help keep children them safe at home, on the street and on the Internet.
*Teach children their full names, address, and home telephone number
*Make sure they know your full name
*Make sure they know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone
*Teach your children how and when to use 911 and make sure they always have a trusted adult to call if they’re scared or have an emergency
*Instruct children to keep the door locked and not to open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone
On the Street
*Remind kids to take a friend whenever they walk or bike to school, and to stay with a group when waiting at the bus stop
*Remind children it’s OK to say NO to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and teach children to tell you if anything or anyone makes them feel this way
*Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside and to ask permission before leaving home
*Teach children to never approach a vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult
*Identify those people who children can ask for help, such as uniformed law enforcement, and firefighters
*Teach children that if anyone tries to grab them, they should make a scene and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming, and resisting
On the Net
*Place the family computer in a common area, rather than a child’s bedroom
*Monitor their time spent online and the Web sites they’ve visited and establish rules for Internet use
*Know what other access your child may have to the Internet at school, libraries, or friends’ homes
*Use privacy settings on social networking sites to limit contact with unknown users and make sure screen names don’t reveal too much about your children
*Encourage your children to tell you if anything they encounter online makes them feel sad, scared, or confused
*Caution children not to post revealing information or inappropriate photos of themselves or their friends online
*Learn about the Internet. The more you know about how the Web works, the better prepared you will be to teach your children about potential risks
The most important message I would have for University students is to maintain awareness of their surroundings at all times. If you are around campus at night, try to stay with a group of friends. Basically use common sense and make safety a priority.
Many students will be introduced to parties, they should be cautious about what the drink and how much they drink. Drinks do get spiked so never leave a drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger.
Never, ever drink and drive – make alternative transportation plans, designated a driver or refrain from alcohol use. Law enforcement and other groups work very hard to stop the number of tragedies caused by drivers under the influence, University students are at the right age to learn and understand that they are also responsible for being a part of the solution by not driving while intoxicated.
Many students will also be using credit/debit cards for the first time and should talk with their banks/credit union/parents about financial safety – never provide personal or financial information to an organization or person if you are not 100 percent sure about their credibility.
Back to school is also an important time to remind drivers that there will be many young pedestrians on the streets in the morning and afternoons. Use extra caution. Parents should also talk with children about child safety.
Bottom line, it’s fun to have head phones, cell phones and text and all that. However, in order to stay safe everyone of all ages needs to pay attention to what is going on around them.
More information about safety is available from the Staying Safe page of our washoesheriff.com
I also encourage Washoe County residents to connect with us on Facebook.