Train for the cameras

Image via <a href=American Police Beat’s recent blog about police pursuits (authored by Sgt. Timothy Long) caught my eye because of this passage:

For the viewer, a police pursuit is a real-time drama with an unknown outcome…. But what if you are the one engaged in the pursuit? You and your decision-making capabilities are playing out for the world to see. You may not have asked for a featured role, but your actions will be scrutinized and evaluated, and so it pays to be prepared.

It’s not just about pursuits

Social media makes that last sentence true for every call an officer goes on. Nearly everyone has a camera phone now; even the freebies that service providers give out as part of their contracts now contain cameras. As this Tampa Bay article points out, they are showing up at ever more incidents.

It doesn’t matter whether the footage goes national or viral or whatever buzzword you care to use. The fact that it’s out there, probably posted on YouTube, makes it likely to gain public if not media attention—even (especially?) if it’s off duty.

(In fact, as more law enforcement agencies switch over to digital two-way communications—depriving newsrooms of primary information sources—those reporters are more likely to set up Google Alerts and other forms of “listening” for mentions of your agency.)

So whether it’s a pursuit, armed confrontation, traffic stop, crash scene, domestic incident, or even just “routine” contact with the public, follow Sgt. Long’s advice: “Study, role-play and critique to become a better decision maker. Expect that the unexpected will test you without warning. This mental preparation should prepare you to manage your pursuit with poise, professionalism and control.”

Prepare creatively

This is good practice anyway. But it should not be left up to individual officers; it should be routinely encouraged, even in departments facing budget cuts. Creativity is key. I have heard that 10-15 minute roll call training can be effective in some ways, and some medical schools are even using Second Life to train future doctors.  Other ideas?

Update: Google blog announces that YouTube has a new site. Says YouTube’s Olivia Ma:

We believe the power of this new media landscape lies in the collaborative possibilities of amateurs and professionals working together.

And so today, we’re launching a new resource on YouTube to help citizens learn more about how to report the news, straight from the experts. It’s called the the YouTube Reporters’ Center, and it features some of the nation’s top journalists sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting.

In a perfect world, this kind of resource will result in better, less biased reporting. But we live in an imperfect world, where video is easily edited. How can police positively respond?

Image via amyrod/Flickr

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