By John Guilfoil for PRNEWS
[Editor’s Note: One of many things under scrutiny in the killing of Tyre Nichols is how the Memphis Police Department (MPD) communicated in its initial press release and police report. Critics charge there were gross mischaracterizations of what occurred. Moreover, they contrast with bodycam video and other footage of Mr. Nichols’s beating. We asked communicator John Guilfoil, who works with police and fire departments, for his view. The essay below was lightly edited and does not necessarily reflect the views of PRNEWS. As always, we invite opposing essays from readers.]
Many know the term public information officer (PIO). A PIO really is a PR practitioner in the emergency realm.
Though not perfect, MPD compares well with other police departments on crisis management.
Sadly, with police killings around the country, we have far too much history on which to draw.
So, while we should expect progress on police communication, it’s utterly sad that we are discussing how poorly other departments communicated when their officers killed people.
Still, some examples. Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown around 10 a.m., Aug. 9, 2014. Ferguson PD issued its first statement at noon the next day. Far too much time passed.
In 2020, the Minneapolis Police PIO was in a terrible position writing the first press release on George Floyd’s death.
Relying on information from middle managers (police sergeants), the result was one of the all-time infamous police press releases. Many believe it downplayed Mr. Floyd’s death.
In reality, an uninformed communicator was following orders and using incomplete (false) information. For more, click here.