Police must prove their mission is to protect and serve to restore trust

If public trust is to be restored, police departments must authentically prove that their mission is to protect and serve, writes PRWeek's editor-in-chief

There is no doubt that being a police officer is extremely dangerous and difficult and involves putting your life on the line daily. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there were 117 police deaths in the line of duty in 2015 by mid-December – police and other emergency services deserve our eternal gratitude for what they do to protect us.

However, there have been far too many incidents recently of officers damaging the reputation of police departments by acting inappropriately and abusing their power. The shocking deaths of black men such as Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by an officer in Chicago who has been charged with first-degree murder, are now often caught on film by citizens with smartphones, CCTV security cameras, or dashcam footage.

For this month’s issue, PRWeek spoke to five high-profile police departments, in Baltimore; Atlanta; Los Angeles; Seattle; and Ferguson, Missouri, to discover how they are responding to this crisis and rebuilding trust with the public.

As with any marketing campaign, the secret to success lies in engaging communities (or customers), starting conversations, and proving the authenticity of talk in actions that follow.

But that’s no easy task. Last year, the New York Police Department famously asked for pictures to be submitted on Twitter of citizens engaging with police, but the resulting snaps majored on violence and brutality rather than selfies with friendly local cops.

If public trust is to be restored, police departments must authentically prove their mission is to protect and serve, as well as highlight the work they already do in communities, both voluntarily and in their day jobs

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