As we all know, the media is full of stories that cast a negative light on law enforcement agencies and officers. There seems to be no lack of information that can be used to that end. One thing to consider, however, is whether you’re taking proactive steps to help turn the lens toward a more positive view. Are you regularly feeding media outlets stories that hail positive police work, spotlight efforts to improve professional policing abilities or highlight extra steps taken to keep your communities safe?
In his excellent book, Blue News, police attorney and trainer Lance LoRusso shares 10 opportunities many agencies may be missing to get positive stories publicized in an effort to counterbalance negative ones. Here are a few things you can do to get the good out:
1. Announce new hires, celebrate retirements (while detailing the retiree’s great work throughout his or her career) and publicize promotions earned by excellent personnel who are prepared to further the mission of supporting your citizens and the agency’s work by providing excellent leadership.
2. Publicize your officers’ involvement in professional law enforcement organizations, especially if they hold a leadership position – relaying the message that your officers go above and beyond the call of duty to stay informed, lead others in the policing mission and dedicate time and effort to improving the profession.
3. Detail successful interagency cooperation of any type and on any level – relaying the message that the excellent law enforcement professionals in your area are well coordinated and prepared and trained to work collaboratively in the interest of your community’s safety.
4. Spotlight “feel good” stories that demonstrate officers’ extra efforts to be helpful…things like helping a citizen in need change a tire, finding a pet, teaching a civilian class on personal safety or giving someone a ride home after a traffic accident.
5. Broadcast the fact that your officers have used their skills, dedication and commitment to successfully locate a lost child or elderly person.
6. Highlight any lifesaving measures your officers took to help save someone in serious medical distress like performing first aid, administering CPR, saving a choking person, utilizing an AED, etc.
7. Share details on any awards your officers earn or special recognition they receive from community groups. Be sure to take the opportunity to detail exactly why they’re being honor and how proud your agency is of that officer and all of your officers.
8. Promote any example of officers hitting milestones in physical fitness or participating in physically demanding events (e.g., marathons or any kind of tribute races) – relaying the message that your agency is professionally and physically fit and ready for duty.
9. Celebrate graduations from citizen police academies or Police Explorer programs, completion of basic academy training and participation in any specialized training. Also announce when your officers earn professional certifications or specialized expert-level titles.
10. Publicly honor any of your officers who are deployed to or return from military service.
Look around. There may be more opportunities to get positive police news out in front of your community…which is a good thing for everyone.