Ferguson Chief’s Crisis Management Comes Late

Jonathan Bernstein communications, crisis communication, crisis communications, crisis management, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, law enforcement crisis management, media relations, media training, public relations, reputation management 3 Comments

Is this a sign of hope for resolution, or just smooth PR?

The handling of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri has been characterized by poor communication, over-reaction, and the creation of an “us vs. them” attitude. Today, in a move that comes far too late but also sparks hope of a resolution to come, Ferguson’s chief of police released a video of him finally doing what he should have done nearly seven weeks ago.

Have a look:

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson’s Urgent Announcement from Devin James Group on Vimeo.

Chief Tom Jackson clearly had some crisis management coaching before the taping of this statement, and he really hit his marks. He’s shed the police uniform, appearing in everyday dress, and his speech nails all of our Three C’s of Credibility – confidence, competence, and compassion. This move comes incredibly late in the game, but it could signal that the Ferguson police department is ready and willing do put in the work that will eventually allow them to move past this tragic situation.

Of course, words only do so much. It will be action that determines the future reputation of the force and its relationship with the citizens it is sworn to protect and service.

The BCM Blogging Team

Comments 3

  1. Tim Burrows

    As I watched the video I couldn’t help thinking about one thing…why no police uniform for the video?
    I see that you give that a plus mark and I was wondering about the reason. I would think that if he had worn the uniform it would have represented not just Tom Jackson making the statement but the Chief and head representative of the Ferguson Police Department making the apology.
    Yes, the civilian attire allows the Chief to be more easily seen as an everyday person, but in this instance, would he not want to have been seen as the police department extending the olive branch?
    Interested in your thoughts.

    1. Erik Bernstein

      In this case there’s been such an us vs. them mentality created that anyone in a police uniform is going to be quickly dismissed by many stakeholders, especially disenfranchised Ferguson residents. Stepping back into the civilian clothes allows Jackson to re-introduce himself as a man of the people, not “the man”. Of course, if this had happened the day after, or even the week after, the shooting, it would have been much more effective. At this point it’s not a tremendously effective standalone tool, and is going to require a serious, long-term effort to back it up.

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