Lessons in Communication from Sanford Police Station

10 Apr

Possessing the ability to maintain effective communication with customers is an increasingly important skill for businesses to have today.  Unfortunately, as of late, the majority of businesses that have been receiving attention regarding this ability have gotten this attention because of their shortcomings in communication.  The same can be said of the business that serves as the inspiration for this blog.

Admittedly, the establishment that I referred to as the inspiration for this blog is not a conventional business.  It is actually a police station.  Despite that, police stations must have some practice with image management.  So, at least in this respect, I argue that police stations must conduct themselves a manner similar to other conventional businesses, at times.

Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman on February 26, 2012.  As of today, the confessed shooter is still not behind bars.  As a result, the Sanford Police Station (the Floridian police station involved in the initial investigation) has received an overwhelming amount of negative attention and criticism.  Beyond this, the station has failed to address this negativity in a productive or effective way.  The chief police officer has only recently begun communicating with the public.  His main reason for doing so, however, was only to announce his decision to temporarily step down as police chief, not to respond to any of the public criticism, questions, or concerns, nor was it to offer any type of credibility.

Although the case as a whole is very dear to me, the point of my blog is not to focus on the political and racial implications.  If we were to look at this case from a strictly business perspective, the actions of the police chief and all the other important members of the Sanford Police Station have been inexcusable.  Their lack of immediate and informative communication has put themselves, their fellow police officers, and their station in an incredibly difficult position.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this public relations catastrophe and that of other more conventional businesses is that the stakes are much higher with the police station.  The main reason for this difference is that policemen are often times portrayed and viewed as the face of justice.  If the public were ever to see a major breach in this image, it could easily cause them to doubt not only the policemen, but also the entire justice system and their safety.  These doubts could very easily lead to horrible and chaotic consequences.

Recently, the Sanford Police Station announced that they wanted to arrest Trayvon’s shooter, but that the Seminole County State Attorney would not allow them to acquire a warrant.  Although the intention of this announcement was most likely to gain their community members’ support and trust back, I personally think it achieved the opposite.  The announcement could not be confirmed by anyone credible.  It also demonstrates the number one classic, desperate PR move: place the blame on someone else.

In order to regain trust and credibility, the Sanford Police Station has their work cut out for them.  This is especially true now that the media has gotten so heavily involved in the case.  It will definitely be interesting to see if this small Floridian police station can come up with a strategy to help sway public opinion about their ability as law enforcers back to their side.  However, I think this will only be possible if they increase communication, be more informative and open, and somehow show that they are always on the side of justice.

by Jennifer Alexander

Sources:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/27/2718130/sanford-cops-wanted-to-charge.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9167675/Trayvon-Martin-killer-George-Zimmerman-claims-he-was-fighting-for-his-life.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2012-03-22/justice/justice_florida-teen-shooting_1_shooting-death-justice-department-investigation?_s=PM:JUSTICE

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One Response to “Lessons in Communication from Sanford Police Station”

  1. Connie Chen April 11, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    Good job Jennifer! I thought your blog post was really well-written, especially the surprise opening where the business in question turned out to be a police station. This reminds me of another PR disaster for a police station in an article my roommate showed me. In that story, they misidentified a woman who was calling about being raped as a woman in a domestic argument with her husband. The police tried to defend themselves by saying they caught the rapist within 13 hours. When the police fail to live up to standards of justice, they need to clearly accept responsibility.

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