I spend a lot of time surfing the web looking for law enforcement related stories or posts. As an active LEO, and a writer, this is the easiest and most efficient way to stay on top of the current trends. Unfortunately, I found it more and more difficult to find the traditional “how to” stories without spending an ever increasing amount of time wading through the daily deluge of anti-police articles. I know I am biased, but is it really possible that police misconduct is as widespread as our detractors make it appear?
“Today’s police officers are held to a much higher standard than their predecessors.”
The simple answer is “No.” While many of the public may not believe it, today’s police officers are held to a much higher standard than their predecessors, and misconduct complaints are taken more seriously than ever before. But that is not what the public sees. The majority of the people we deal with on a daily basis are not happy to see us and unlikely to become future cheerleaders for our team. There is nothing we can do about that. We also cannot keep the haters from posting their side of the story or strategically edited pictures or videos showing us at our worst. So what can we do?
What I am proposing is that departments, and even individual officers, fight this Media War head on.
- Provide an alternative – If the only time citizens see images of officers is in a negative context, it will be hard to convince them those are simply a moment in time rather than everyday reality. We can combat this by providing positive examples of officers doing good – in other words doing what they normally do – on a regular basis.
- Let others do your work for you – As you know, any pictures you present to the public will be met with a certain degree of scrutiny. We need to counter this by providing opportunities for the media or the public to do this for us. How about adding a “Catch a Cop Doing Right” section to your social media page where people can post positive pictures? Just remember, you want to be able to approve pictures prior to being made public, or you could easily lose control. NYPD recently learned this lesson the hard way.
- Do not fear the camera – Cops hate cameras. Nothing can clear a crime scene faster than a news van pulling into the parking lot. But instead of thinking like a cop, think like a politician. Politicians never shy away from a camera. Regardless of what they are doing, they will put on a smile, kiss a baby and kick out a positive photo op. If you see a news crew or a citizen with a GoPro recording a routine interaction, just go about your business. Instead of telling them “Nothing to see, move along,” or arguing with them about filming you, show them a positive police interaction. Worst case scenario is they have a useless video of you doing your job. Best case scenario is they post a video of officers at their best.
Face it, cameras are everywhere. So just smile and say “Cheese.”