Screen shot from amateur video
In what could be described as a swift and highly-organized response, elected and community leaders in South Carolina avoided escalating a crisis involving a shocking police involved shooting that was captured on video in North Charleston. It seems many agencies learned important lessons following a similar incident in Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown last year. The slow communications response, lack of visibility, poor community outreach, and inconsistent statements all added fire to heated protests in the city, sparked viral outrage on social media, and ignited numerous protests in many other cities across the country.
It was clear that those who were in charge of the North Charleston investigation and communications team properly identified all of essential the stakeholders and kept them well informed on the latest developments. The spokespeople expressed genuine concern and were effective in providing available details to the public.
1. The mayor of North Charleston held a timely media briefing where he expressed sympathy and said the city accepted responsibility. “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision,” he said.
2. The Governor of South Carolina issued an immediate statement declaring, “We have many good law enforcement officers in the field. What happened in this case is not acceptable in South Carolina, nor is it reflective of our values or of the way most of our law enforcement officials act, and I assure all South Carolinians that the criminal judicial process will proceed fully. This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal.”
3. The leaders also informed the NAACP and the victim’s family so that an earlier scheduled press conference was delayed. We could assume that the city and state would have been criticized for responding to unanswered questions.
Even though the city will have to handle a series of emotionally-charged public demonstrations (All Lives Matter), it will be critical for it to maintain a positive relationship with the community and the media as the case against the accused police officer goes to trial.
The opposite is happening in the city of Miami Gardens where a police officer killed a mentally-ill man. The attorney for the family plans to release a police dashcam video that contradicts what was reported to the public. It’s described as a bombshell. The City is remaining silent.