Snowstorms and Firestorms- LEOs weather both
This weekend, the east coast was slammed by a huge set of storms. Thunder snow, flooding, and blizzard conditions challenged LEOs as they traveled to work, completed their duties, then returned to their families. Often, there are many injuries that the public never learns about. A LEO buddy of mine made it through a horrible storm a few years ago and spent his extended shift rescuing stranded motorists only to fall getting up his driveway.
LEOs grow accustomed to these weather emergencies. They come and ago and there are contingency plans to manage the manpower requirements to keep the public safe. Following these events, agencies will gather with resources from other first responder organizations and public works departments to improve those plans. This process works, and LEOs get through these events because even the nastiest weather has an end in sight.
The media firestorm LEOs have been facing, which intensified since August 2014, has been relentless. LEOs have been placed in the sights of both the formal and informal media. In many cases, news stories of LEOs who have acted improperly have been perpetuated long beyond the normal news cycle. In other cases, supposition and speculation about the propriety of the actions of LEOs led to grossly unfair accusations that were ultimately disproved months later. However, the clearing of the LEO did not garner nearly the same amount of media attention or public recognition.
The problem with media firestorms is that they have no definable start and typically have no predicable ending. No one really knows whether the vicious attacks, particularly those taking place in the informal media, will ever end. This trend has a pernicious effect on LEOS. The more seasoned LEOs grow weary of the attacks and seek to exit the profession as quickly as possible. On the front end, many departments are having difficulty recruiting new LEOs. Finally, many LEOs on the job who are a long way from retirement have begun to wonder how long the negative press will go on before their jobs are nearly made impossible.
LEOs and their agencies cannot afford to simply brace through negative attention and hope it passes. Modern law enforcement agencies must prepare for contingencies and critique their efforts just as they do following challenges handed them by nature. Strategies must focus on having an active and prolific presence on social media as well as using press releases and invitations to local and national media to positive events and training. There is more at stake than some bad press. Negative media coverage can affect the relationship between LEOs and the communities they protect. That relationship is critical and law enforcement agencies must make extraordinary efforts to preserve and strengthen it.