Suburban law enforcement officials who followed the news of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last summer and the widespread protests that erupted soon after are examining their strategies for high-profile incidents in hopes of avoiding similar upheaval. One item on their lists, says the Chicago Tribune: brushing up on tactics for dealing with the press. A training session by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police titled “Media Relations Training: Don’t Be the Next Ferguson, Missouri!” drew 70 police officials. Rick Rosenthal, president of RAR Communications and a former Chicago broadcast journalist, promised to help police “win with the media.” Rosenthal said that doesn’t mean “vanquishing” the media, but making sure law enforcement gets a fair shake — has been striking a chord.
The major takeaway, he said, is to get as much information out as quickly as possible while still getting it right. If facts aren’t available or releasing details could harm an investigation, police should talk about their process so people know the situation is being taken seriously and know what to expect, he said. “The bottom line is there was an information vacuum from the Ferguson police department, and the Twitterverse filled that vacuum,” Rosenthal said. “Instead of information and facts, you were getting speculation, rumor and outright falsehoods, and there was no counterbalance.”