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Top 12 Agencies at Obtaining Positive Media for 2003

City of Camden Police Department

Glassboro Police Department

Hoboken Police Department

Jersey City Police Department

Magnolia Police Department

City of Newark Police Department

New Jersey State Police

Princeton Township Police Department

Princeton Borough Police Department

South Brunswick Police Department

Trenton Police Department

Washington Township Police Department

 

       The above twelve departments are the ones that seem to pull off getting the most positive press for their agencies. They are the ones we see most often in the print media with positive coverage. Such results reflect a proactive effort toward obtaining positive coverage for themselves and working with the press.

 

       Obtaining more positive press coverage for your agency is not that difficult.  After reading this piece, visit our New Jersey Law Enforcement Media Center.  It is a page containing contact information for all local and regional media outlets. 

 

       Below is an outline of how to improve the positive press coverage of your department:

 

 

Who May Release

Many departments only allow a certain person to issue press releases. This is counterproductive and, often, too much work for the officer(s) assigned. Department policy should allow certain press releases to be issued by OIC’s and above. If concerned, this allowance can and should come with guidelines permitting such releases only in the case of non-high profile incidents. Obviously, a patrol sergeant shouldn’t be speaking to the media about a triple homicide where the prosecutor’s office is leading the investigation. However, if one of his or her officers makes a great arrest or heroic rescue, the sergeant or OIC should be allowed to and required to issue a press release as soon as practical.

 

With this responsibility should come basic instruction as to what information can or should be released. It’s not rocket science either. The training will take about 20 minutes if prepared, and written guidelines should be given to officers attending this training.

 

Contacts

The best way to have your story make it in the paper is to have a contact with the press. Developing relationships is easy too. Issue a few press releases to different reporters, and when you find one who you relate to well, forward all releases to him or her. Reporters have bosses breathing down their neck for articles. They love nothing more than a contact who feeds them ideas and stories. Contacts should be made at all of the local and regional medial outlets.

 

Press Releases Always in Writing

This is where many departments fall short.

 

Preparing a press release in writing is mandatory in a good press program for several reasons.

 

First, it protects the issuing officer from any accusation of releasing inappropriate information. Second, if there

 

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 are mistakes in the printed story, again, the issuing officer is protected. Third, in the written press release you will strive to credit all deserving persons and agencies. If when the article comes out a deserving officer is upset for not being mentioned, he or she can be given a copy of the press release showing that the agency did recognize his or her efforts and did credit them.

 

Also, issuing a written press release saves a lot of time. The issuing officer can simply drop it in a fax machine or email and jet it off to three or four local and regional media outlets instead of having to make the same phone call three or four times.

 

Finally, the actual press release can posted in headquarters to publicly recognize the officer(s) for their accomplishments.

 

Oh, the involved officers should never be the ones issuing the press release. Using a third party as a buffer shields the involved officers later in court if any part of the article came out wrong.

 

Email

Get the email address of your contacts. This is, by far, the most convenient method of issuing press releases.

 

Lt. Derek Glenn of the Newark Police Department is the master of New Jersey law enforcement when it comes to this one. When he issues a press release, it goes to twenty-four different media outlets ranging from local papers to the Associated Press to all of the major networks. Yes, even we made his list.

 

Also, when the press receives an email, they can just cut and paste the information which makes their job easier.

 

Visuals

The press, especially television, loves visuals.

 

Visuals are something that can be photographed to accompany the article. Mug shots, photos of seized contraband, and pictures of involved officers are all good examples of visuals. When preparing the written press release, indicate that you have visuals for any interested media entity. Sometimes, having available visuals will mean the difference between your release making the paper or making the shredder.

 

Quotes

Press releases for officer accomplishments should include quotes. The quotes should be given by the involved officers (It was the first baby I delivered. I was nervous, but it went well) and superiors of the involved officers (This arrest took $1,300 worth of ecstasy off the street and put a drug dealer in jail. Ptl. Buck did an excellent job).

 

Quotes should also be given by victims or other persons who benefited from the officers’ actions as long as no investigation will be jeopardized and as long as the victim agrees.

 

Construction

Prepare the press release as if you were writing the story for the local paper. Most of the time they will change it, but, when in a rush, the article that appears in the paper may look very close to your press release.

 

DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPITALS. Doing so is sacrilegious in the journalism world, difficult to read, and, often, pushes the reader away to something else.

 

Use paragraphs, and separate them with spaces. The only thing more annoying then all capitals is an article that just runs on in one giant blurb of words.

 

Always supply contact information in the piece for any follow-up questions.

 

Access and Assistance

Let’s say that an officer pulled someone from a burning car. If the car is in an impound lot, offer to accompany them to the lot for photos. If an officer revived a person choking on food and the person is okay, offer an interview with the victim provided that you check with the victim first. If the victim only speaks Spanish and you have a Spanish speaking officer, offer that officer to translate. Use your judgment here. You know what is and what is not appropriate.

 

Do whatever you can to make their job easier.

 

Obviously, never do anything that could jeopardize an investigation or violate someone’s privacy, always follow your agency’s rules and regulations, and, when in doubt, check with a superior or lean on the side of caution. Everything written here is subject to the circumstances of the incident.

 

New Jersey Law Enforcement Media Center

 

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