Proactive Versus Reactive PR in Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement PR

PR pros use two main strategies to build and protect brand images. Smart PR experts use the proactive strategy building brands and pre-empting attacks before they occur. Other PR experts use the reactive strategy, acting only after tragedy strikes. Most PR firms try to use proactive strategies. But often, bad things happen without a warning. Also, people wait to call in PR pros until after the crisis hits.

Today, no field knows the effect of bad press as much as law enforcement. Police departments across America make headlines for the wrong reasons, such as racial profiling, and the use of excessive force. As a result, many police departments now work hard painting a trustworthy image to the people they serve.

Read on to see how two police departments in America used separate strategies in pursuit of this common goal:

Greenwich Police Department

Greenwich Police Department

Like any other police department, Greenwich PD does attract the occasional bad press. But for the most part, the department enjoys support from the media and surrounding community. To achieve this, the department used proactive strategies ensuring good deeds made it to the news more often than their mistakes.

For example, news reports of Greenwich PD often seek help from the public in catching suspects. They also inform the public of progress as the department investigates criminal activities. This helps gain information from the public and reminds people in the area of the purpose they serve. It also shows the officers work hard to protect the peace every day.

One way the department does this is involvement in public relations seminars, educating not just guests, but their officers as well. For instance, on December 7th and 8th, the department hosted an invitation-only event, preparing government officials for responsibilities related to public relations.

The police department were not the only attendees at the seminar. Other government bodies also attended. This includes the Board of Education, the Department of Health, the Fire Department, and the Department of Children and Families. This strengthens strategic relationships, portraying a united front to the public.

San Francisco Police Department

San Francisco Police Department

The San Francisco PD has not been as lucky or as wise. This police department continually makes the news for a number of reasons, ranging from stealing drugs to racism and use of excessive force. The department’s reactive strategy involves taking a second oath geared at rebuilding the community’s trust.

The voluntary oath, called the “Not on my Watch” pledge, encourages officers to deal with injustice not just on the streets, but in the department. According to the San Francisco Examiner, officers who take the second oath vow “to report other officers when and if they are breaking the law or acting in a fashion beneath the dignity of their position.”

This move joins other efforts, such as running ads on the radio claiming the department is the nation’s most diverse. The ads also say the officers do not racially profile. Unfortunately, neither of these declarations proved true.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, “In recent years the department has been beset by scandals that have damaged the image of the 2,000 officer department. Early this year a racist text message scandal broke, showing how a handful of officers sent bigoted texts to one another.”

The SFPD did make one right move when the officer behind the decision to let officers take the pledge, set an example through taking the pledge himself. However, officers do not need to take the pledge, undermining its effectiveness. The SFPD’s false claims on public media only further damaged the public’s ability to trust in the integrity of the police department.

While reactive strategies prove useful at times, Greenwich PD definitely shows why it is more effective to nip it in the bud before the problem grows into a crisis. This is most true when people’s lives are in danger, and the safety of the public is at risk. San Francisco PD should look to Greenwich PD as a good example of staying on top of their game, and should also consider taking stronger corrective action against corrupt police officers.

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