At a time when crime in Washington, D.C., has fallen, Police Chief Cathy Lanier wants to lift the profile of individual officers and has turned to a public relations firm for help, hoping that good press will engender more trust with the community, reports the Washington Post. The paper calls it the latest example of a shift in policing, from shielding the public from crime news to finding the best way to package it to them.
Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum said once-tight-lipped police agencies, not wanting to scare the public with too much crime information, now understand the power of that information to connect them with residents. When Boca Raton, Fl., Police Chief Daniel Alexander wanted to publicize VIPER, a crime awareness program, he turned to a PR firm that created ads, a Web site and catchphrases such as “Together Let’s VIPER-IZE crime.” “We’re looking to create a brand for our department,” Alexander said. “As police we’re not selling a product, but in some ways we are: public safety.” In Washington, the police are working with the Glover Park Group, made up of several Clinton administration officials and Republican strategists.