Communications and Law Enforcement

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a long time about my experiences as an intern with a local law enforcement agency. I could write about how I obtained this internship, how I am the first intern in the public information office at this agency, and what I’ve learned in my six weeks there so far. But the most important part in all of it is how my views have been shaped, and how the passion in me has been ignited.

I wrote a blog post in 2011 about my dream job.  The thing about me is that I am pretty indecisive, especially when it comes to a career and what I want to do for the rest of my life. But for some reason, all of the stars are aligning and I found a passion. I want to share some observations about communications and law enforcement.

Please keep in mind that these are my personal opinions and do not reflect the opinions of the law enforcement agency I am interning for. 

Here’s the thing about law enforcement and communications: in general, agencies are behind the times.

Think about it.

Our general society spends how much of their time with their smart phone or on the internet? How do most Americans get their news? If you watch the news on TV, what are the most typical stories about?

The short answer is this: our society has become increasingly dependent on instant gratification and consistent updates about what is going on in the world.

But what if the law enforcement agency becomes their own source of information?

In today’s world, I can find out about a critical incident that has occurred through Facebook, because someone that listens to the police scanner is sharing what they’re hearing. From a marketing standpoint, this is how a police department is a brand. You have an image, and how your image is portrayed, well, that’s your brand.

As part of my internship, I did a ride along with an officer last week. It was an epiphany for me, mostly because it reminded me that it isn’t always butterflies and unicorns but rather police officers deal with things on a daily basis that most of us cannot fathom. My ride along was what the officer called “pretty intense”. Long story short, it involved a chase searching for the suspect. By the time I got home at 10pm from my ride along, I already had someone ask me if I heard about the incident. Sure enough, I open Facebook to see this:

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In a matter of 15 minutes, these people listening to the scanner are relaying the information they’re hearing. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with this. What I am saying is, what if the police department owns this information? What if the police department had a way to officially share the information?

Seattle Police Department is doing just that. They recently instituted something called Tweets by Beat.

They are setting the precedence for law enforcement agencies across the country. How?

By sharing information. By being transparent with their community. By connecting with their community.

Connecting with your community

Police departments, in general, are moving towards community policing. This means they are one with the community. They support partnerships with community members and business owners. Instead of being looked at like the “bad guys”, they are there to help you. They are walking the streets of your community, building relationships and in turn, working to reduce crime. They’re being proactive, instead of reactive.

Something as simple as publishing a weekly police blotter, that provides a review of police calls that were responded to, if a citizen chooses sign up for it. Providing a real-time map of crimes in your neighborhood. Encouraging citizens to utilize an anonymous service to share concerns about things you see happening in your neighborhood. Creating an app that allows citizens to share information with you, so you can better serve them.

The bottom line is this: communication is important.

And on top of that, it is a two-way street. If you want the community to communicate with you, you need to communicate with them. As a law enforcement agency, your duty is to protect and serve.

As I complete my internship with this well-respected law enforcement agency and move towards focusing on a career in law enforcement communications, I realize how important it is for agencies to own their message and be authentic.

I have found a passion in observing, studying and talking about this small, but very important, piece of this field. As I continue on my career path, I hope to turn this passion into something that can help law enforcement agencies understand how important it is to communicate.

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The beauty of the city

Minneapolis

I pride myself on being a St. Paul girl, but sometimes I do find myself on the other side of the river in Minneapolis.

Last night I went for a lovely and long walk in Minneapolis. We went from the Stone Arch Bridge, along the river, over the Hennepin Avenue bridge before stopping in Northeast Minneapolis for a late dinner. It was a beautiful evening and I know I had to cancel my plans of laundry to enjoy it, and I’m so glad I did.

Social Media Crisis Simulation

Another reason I love the Twin Cities, besides their general beauty, is the plethora of professional associations we have. I’m a member and quite active with Ad Fed MN, but tomorrow I’m attending my first MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association) event. It is called, “Secrets Revealed: Simulating a Social Media Crisis”. The FireBell Team from Weber Shandwick Minneapolis will be sharing their award-winning social media crisis simulation platform. Wait, social media crisis simulation platform?!?!  I am a self-proclaimed social media addict, and being able to use it in a professional capacity is my ultimate dream job. So it makes total sense that learning how to use it in a CRISIS situation will be beneficial. I’m looking forward to attending the event and learning. Look forward to a post on that shortly!

Crush It

I’m almost halfway through the book “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. So far, I’m loving the book. After I picked up the book I came across this TED Talk from Gary and immediately dove into the book. I’ve been inspired a few times and am ready to hit the ground running to CRUSH IT, the Leah Zins way.

Toastmasters

I’ve taken on a leadership role in my Toastmasters club, Securian Toastmasters #560! I’m very excited to be the VP of Membership and Public Relations. The two roles go hand-in-hand so when there wasn’t any interest from other club members I jumped at the chance to combine the roles. A couple of the things I’ll be doing:

  • Putting together the quarterly newsletter
  • Promoting the club within the organization I work for
  • Meeting with interested people and sharing the benefits of the club
  • Setting new members up with mentors

I’ve experienced a ton of personal and professional growth since joining Toastmasters in July 2011, and the opportunity to share that with potential members will be so much fun!

Whether it happens in St. Paul or Minneapolis, I’m grateful to live in a metro area with so many different clubs and organizations that thrive on their members involvement and provide so many opportunities to learn and grow.

My Dream Job

I am often asked what I want to do for my career. In today’s day in age, it isn’t uncommon that my peers will have 3 -4 different jobs in their lifetime. I absolutely love my job and the company I work for now. Will I stay here forever? I could. The company is ridiculously strong and secure. We have amazing benefits. My co-workers are pretty great. But what do I want to do?

Well, I love marketing and advertising. I do some outside activities to get in touch with the local marketing and advertising community. I’ve spent time with a lot of people who work in a ton of different environments, from corporate to ad agencies to education to being self-employed.

In high school and during my early years of college I wanted to be a social worker. I’m a very compassionate person and I wanted to help people. Shortly after taking a few classes and doing some research on what I’d do as a social worker, I decided against it. I fell into my current position and have been drawn into the business world.

I’ve spent time thinking, how can I can combine business and doing good for the world. In 2010 I did the St. Paul Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy (remember?!). This was an awesome experience. And I got tazed! It wasn’t as bad as it sounds but if I was acting out it would definitely calm me down. One of the things we did in the CPA was learn about every different department within the SPPD.

Any police department will have a media liaison and it’s usually a sergeant or maybe even the police chief. Bigger departments, like St. Paul, have a specific person that fills this role and they’re called the Public Information Officer (if they’re actually a police officer) or else the spokesperson for the department. St. Paul has a list of great PIO’s and I was able to have one as my professor at St. Kate’s in the summer of 2010 for an elective class I took called the Anatomy of Violence. Between learning about the PIO’s position in the CPA and talking with my professor about his role, I knew I had to find out more about it.

It is a very fast paced job. This person is the point of contact for all media. The media comes in daily and goes through the police reports and from that pick which cases to report on. From what I’ve heard, the media folk are usually chomping at the bit to get information about the various police reports that have been released.

I have to say, this would be my dream job! And don’t worry, I have a plan of action to reach this goal. Once I complete my degree in marketing and management, I’m going to figure out how to enroll in the skills academy. Once the skills academy is completed, I will test to be a cop and look for a job, hopefully within St. Paul Police Department. SPPD is really tough to get into but I’m hoping that completing the CPA and making connections between now and then will help me with this. Then, I’ll be a patrol cop for a few years. I’m talking the nitty gritty 7pm until 8am shift. I am a total night owl, so this would be amazing. I can spend my day sleeping and working out in the cop gym. I will spend my time learning the police department while still focusing on my desires as a marketing and public relations professional. Then, magically, this position will become available. I will interview and be the best for the job, given my experience with the department and my background in business and marketing/PR.

It is fun to dream, huh? 🙂