Agencies must have a communication plan before a crisis occurs. Chief David Nisleit of the San Diego California Police Department along with his team, Lieutenant Adam Sharki, Ashley Bailey, Strategic Communications Officer, and Laura Cole, owner of Cole Pro Media Police, provided a framework to optimize communication and ensure that police leaders are engaged with community members during a crisis. The role of protecting and serving is not accomplished solely by responding to crimes. Chiefs must demonstrate empathy and a sense of urgency when an incident impacts a community. Community members want to be informed and included in the solution. It is imperative that relationships are developed prior to the occurrence of incidents. Police leaders must adapt to the current times and utilize technology to deliver the message while embracing collaborations with external partners. Crisis communication requires purposeful and regular engagements with elected officials, media, community advocates, and representatives from other public safety and public service entities.
In the world of social media, the panelists stressed the importance of agencies obtaining followers on all social platforms early as part of their crisis communication plan. The public information officer or designee keeps the community engaged and informed by posting recent and upcoming activities for the agency. Therefore, when a crisis happens, followers can assist in disseminating information quickly. Such communication helps to improve trust with law enforcement.
SoundThinking strives to cultivate relationships by employing similar strategies – using all modes of social media to reach a diverse audience. Through agency introductions, community engagement directors are afforded the opportunity to connect with community organizations. Communities need to be empowered. It begins with listening to the needs of the people and then providing a service and products to help them achieve their public safety goal. Crisis communications also requires being accessible. Having meetings with our internal and external partners allows them to understand and ask questions, which can result in their buy-in for greater public safety.