Catch a Cop…Doing Good!

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?

[quote_right]”Today’s police officers are held to a much higher standard than their predecessors.”[/quote_right]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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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1 thought on “Catch a Cop…Doing Good!

  1. Tom, thank you for your service as a LEO. I am retired active duty Army this past summer (no thanks are required). Over many years, I have had mixed experience with law enforcement. Once I got stopped at a seat belt check point while exiting I95 in CT and the officer was very agitated because I “looked” upset. He commented to his fellow officer that I was an a-hole. At the time, I was driving limosine professionally. Stick it to the workin man eh? Another time, 3 detectives entered my apartment building looking for a suspect. One of the officers was extremely rude and acting like a super tough guy toward me. I did nothig to warrant his aggressive behaviour as I did not match the description of who they were looking for (which was a black man – I am white). I have always realized that police have a dangerous job even in their routine duties and so have always acted politely and calmly as to not arouse extra testosterone levels. I agree that majority of LEO are honest, hard working, professionals but have experienced too many bad apples (or maybe bad hair days?) and feel that the issue needs to be taken seriously – its not just a PR problem. I’m saying this from the perspective of a white man, dedicated patriot, and person who was raised to respect authority. But my respect has been challenged a few too many times. Hopefully, things will improve – for everyone.

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