Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?

media

What’s the best time to plant a tree?

– 30 years ago.

What’s the next best time to plant a tree?

– Today

In general, law enforcement has made for horrible horticulturalists. We’ve not tilled the soil of community engagement as a practice. Now we wonder why no one understands us.

When an incident like Ferguson erupts, the pundits hurry to fend off allegations from a civilian population incessantly asking for answers. I’ve had so many tell how they’ve unfriended people on social media streams because of the content post-grand jury decision.

When a public service organization adopts a “No Comment” paradigm over the course of a few centuries, is it any wonder why questions and misinformation arises during societal flash points. While operational confidentiality is vital to an agency’s mission, the majority of daily operations and information processed by law enforcement fail to meet the level of classified materials.

Social media allows public agencies an opportunity to manage their own message. If an agency fails or refuses to engage in the often free mediums available for informing people, then they should expect to face the accusations of pent up frustrations.

This is a great opportunity for Chiefs and Sheriff’s to re-examine their public relations practices. It has to be more substantial than a few handshakes with kids at the high school ball game. An ongoing, open dialogue with the community we swore to serve builds bridges and breaks down walls.

A few suggestions:

  1. Balance the “official” tone of agency social media accounts. If you want the public to relate to the humanity of your officers, then present them as such.
  2. Not every public event has to be public. People distinguish “photo ops” from sincere neighborhood engagements.
  3. Proactively pursue the media for establishing mutual credibility. Yes, mutual.
  4. Ensure the designated “Voice and Face” of your agency is representative not only of the community, but of the vision and ideals for serving the public.
  5. When wrong, say “I’m sorry.”
  6. When right, give credit to the persons responsible. Whether it’s the rookie cop or the shop owner who dialed it in, give legitimate thanks.
  7. Don’t wait until a crisis to introduce yourself to the public you vowed to protect.
  8. Don’t take it person. Negative public comments are born out of the frustrations of not being heard. Re-evaluate practices to ensure you’ve not shut your community out.
  9. When times get tough, don’t be a prick.
  10. In all situations, be yourself – a single human being placed in extraordinary circumstances trying to handle unimaginable calamities. People understand if you trip, and if you do, refer back to #9.

Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?

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One thought on “Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?

  1. I made it to the second paragraph and I’ll go back and read the rest to see if you change gears because it’s rare that I’ll disagree completely with you. This is one of those times. So far.

    The police force is being used, Chief. You’re being made a villain for political purposes, to keep people mired in ignorance. Simple as that. It even follows the regular playbook.

    Examine the facts. Brown was a known thug, he attacked the officer, he hit the officer at least twice and the act that ended his life was charging the police officer. I have a friend who spent more than a decade in prison for the attempted murder of a police officer for grabbing the officers gun hand and pointing the gun at his OWN head, begging the officer to pull the trigger. He’s white as the day is long.

    Knowing the facts, the fact that Brown is dead shouldn’t surprise anyone. What is surprising is that this took the shape it did, although several people did lie in the beginning to help it come to that end. That’s really the interesting point though.

    If you weren’t being used then the lie would drop. The lie that this is police brutality, racism or anything the suggests the officer did something wrong. It isn’t though, the parents and their lawyer are doubling down and the race peddlers aren’t letting go (I am admittedly out of the loop, I haven’t watched the news in three days other than The Five once)… Last I saw they were still pushing racism though… Pushing the lie. Throw enough crap against a barn and some will eventually stick.

    I’m used to seeing this often: Keep the people ignorant, keep them angry and keep preserve the argument for later use, at all costs.

    Chief, in this age of ignorance-based politics, enemies are required to keep the machine cranking. You will never be given a fair shake. Just ask Tawana Brawley.

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