Why Civilians May Be Better Police Department Spokespeople


The Baltimore County Police Department has dismissed its longtime public information spokesman, Bill Toohey, to be replaced by a uniformed officer in front of the cameras. Baltimore Sun crime beat blogger Peter Hermann says his departure is “a loss, not just for the media that grew to trust Bill, but for the citizens as well. With Bill, they got a person who spoke and sounded like them, who could translate the most arcane police verse into English.”

Hermann says “citizen spokespeople can challenge the police command in ways sworn rank and file cannot, can find ways around the bureaucracy, bring a fresh, outside perspective to a problem and add credibility when something controversial is going down.” He adds: “Police agencies are communicating not to other cops but to the public. A terse ‘no comment’ or “we can’t tell you because it’s part of the investigation’ leaves too many people wondering why they’re not being told something. A civilian might be able to explain it better.”

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