The Big Pitch: How can Philadelphia police overcome bad exposure from beating a suspect?





Los Angeles

Like any controversial industry, big-city police departments like

Philadelphia’s must be willing to shed light on themselves and their

values. Show the public you care about the same things they care about,

and the public will give you a fair hearing. Where I live, Angelenos see

the LAPD as insular, almost an alien culture. Why? The LAPD does a poor

job explaining itself because, at heart, it doesn’t believe the public

will judge its members fairly. The solution: adopt a PR strategy based

on trusting the public. Neither the public nor media are knee-jerk

police antagonists; don’t treat them that way. Capitalize on public

interest in crime fighting.

Keep the pipeline filled with stories illuminating officers’ unique


Tell, in detail, the story of how the department corrects its own



Walls Communications

Washington, DC

It is doubtful the Philadelphia police department can ’patch up’ its

reputation in the short-term. But they should have been spending the

time before the GOP convention communicating exactly what they intend to

do in terms of patrols and street accessibility. Beyond that, PR

activities that flow from sound departmental policies and practices can

lessen the damage to the department’s credibility. The following

suggestions could apply to any police department with similar issues

First, get the facts.

Second, ensure the rights of all involved. Third, if action is taken

against any officer, communicate this and explain why. Above all,

communicate the facts honestly, consistently and regularly to community

leaders and organizations as well as the news media.



Washington, DC

Such compelling video stoking an international media frenzy calls for

bold actions to help restore credibility. Step one: actively engage the

media, lest others fill the void at police expense. Step two: concede

the obvious - that while the video may not tell the whole story and an

investigation is under way, the tape appears disturbing. Step three:

enlist third parties to promote positive stories about police benefiting

the local community. Step four: hold a public forum with the local

community to listen to and address all concerns. And as a headline

grabber, step five: announce an independent review of overall police

practices by a respected national figure. Taken together, these actions

could help shift media focus away from the video to the future promise

of improved police/community relations.


Tierney Communications


On the eve of the Republican National Convention, videotape of a violent

police arrest has created an uninvited test for Philadelphia’s police

force. At stake are not only the professional reputations of the police

commissioner and mayor, but also the reputation of an entire city.

Fortunately, Philadelphia police commissioner John Timoney has gotten

out in front of the issue by acknowledging the troubling sights on the

video and promising to let a full investigation run its course. That’s

unlike Rudy Giuliani, who responded to recent police action by taking

the officers’ side before all facts were known. Employing PR has never

simply been a ’Band-Aid’ for commissioner Timoney. Over time, Timoney

has demonstrated a core value of reputation management by communicating

both openly and honestly with all stakeholders on all issues - not just

putting out written statements.

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