Police across the country are being trained to use social media to make them appear more approachable.
The Police Social Media Academy (PSMA), International Association of Chiefs of Police (ICAP), FBI-LEEDA and Crime Stoppers International (CSI) teach police officers how to use social media to their benefit.
According to PSMA, police officers are given a three day social media training course to help them influence, sorry I meant interact with their communities.
Below are a few examples of how police are being trained to act interact with their communities.
- When and what to post
- Dealing with criticism
- Managing a crisis
- Interaction with news media
- Finding the message that “resonates” with YOUR community
Let’s breakdown what they mean.
Today’s Public Information Officers (PIO) know exactly ‘when and what to (say) post.’ In other words they follow a script. PIO’s are taught to use words like “reasonable force” instead of “necessary force” because it changes their meaning.
This term does not carry the unrealistically-utopian idealism of the term “minimal force.” It also does not give any implication that it describes an exact quantum of force that can be debated for weeks. It does not give the idea that a use of force should be looked at with hindsight to determine if it really was “necessary.”
Much like a news stations, police departments produce their own media releases, Tweets and videos.
How do PIO’s deal with criticism?
By publishing their own news releases, no conflict of interest their right?.
How do PIO’s manage a crisis?
PIO’s receive ‘crisis management training’ of course.
“Life’s Eyes Media trainers prepare PIO’s to face the difficult and challenging tasks of successfully communicating key messages through a media landscape that thrives on drama, controversy, and negative news. Departments with effective crisis management programs understand that every crisis represents a clear and present danger to their reputation and/or financial well being…”
PIO’s are trained to view every public encounter as an opportunity to deliver their department’s message.
How do PIO’s interact with the news media?
By monitoring interviews and following a script.
PIO’s monitor interviews to keep them within their parameters.
(approx. 7:10 )
A 2013 report titled ‘Media Access: Public Information Officers’ Perception of Media Control’ revealed that everything a PIO says is monitored and reviewed.
How do PIO’s find the message that resonates with their community?
By using social media to make them appear more approachable.
Police post pictures of missing pets to influence public opinion
At approximately 3:25 of the above video, Don White reveals that the community really enjoys it when police post pictures of lost pets. And let’s not forget baby deliveries, police love posting stories of officers helping deliver a baby.
As the video continues, police are taught to post positive feedback from the community and to ADVERTISE community programs. They are also taught to provide ‘instant lookouts’ like missing children and suspicious people.
PIO’s are also warned to be on the lookout for ‘conduct unbecoming.’ Conduct unbecoming is when an officer brags about how many tickets they wrote or how many arrests they’ve made on social media. (For more information about how police use social media to make them appear more approachable click here.)
PIO’s have even created their own ‘Beyond The Badge’ YouTube channel that promotes a ‘positive police image’. (Click here to watch a recent video.) The FBI’s LEEDA program shows police how to promote a consistent positive image, so the public will trust them.
As you can see, police departments like corporations use various methods to influence public opinion.