San Francisco Cops Want Better Press
August 22, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The San Francisco Police department has a problem. It seems they have somehow developed a poor image with the general public. At a recent police commission meeting, members brainstormed the problem. Commissioner Sonia Melara lamented:
How do we get this information out into the community of what our police department is doing? I think what gets out into our community is all of the negative information. I am trying to figure out if we need to hire a publicist.”
Commissioner Thomas Mazzucco, not happy with press coverage of a recent incident where police had a 13-hour standoff with a 13-year-old autistic boy allegedly holed-up in his own garage with a knife, was frustrated with media coverage of the event:
We have to get traction with the press. Instead of pointing out that the police did not open fire or kill the suspect, headlines centered on police firing bean bags at the man. We need to have some fairness in the press with what the officers are doing.
Commissioner Petra Dejesus hilariously summed it up for the majority:
We need to get in front of it and hire a publicist … [to] put it in words we want to put in.
Apparently, the SFPD’s team of six spokesliars has not been cutting it. One of whom was once a television reporter. So now Commission members want to go professional; maybe hire an outfit that specializes in this sort of thing.
But will that work?
A quick aside. The website of the SFPD Police Commission says:
The mission of the Police Commission is to set policy for the Police Department and to conduct disciplinary hearings on charges of police misconduct filed by the Chief of Police or Director of the Office of Citizen Complaints, impose discipline in such cases as warranted, and hear police officers’ appeals from discipline imposed by the Chief of Police.
In a possible display of why she is SFPD Commission President; Suzy Loftus wasn’t exactly down with what the other commissioners were saying:
There’s what we can control and there’s what we can’t control,” she said. “I think the editors get to control what the headlines say.
Note that creating a better image for the police department through media manipulation is not mentioned in the Commission mission statement. It must be in the fine print somewhere.
There’s one really obvious factor that controls what the headlines say more than anything else. More than editors or any professional police PR machine and that is: What officers do; how they behave where members of the public can see them.
Commissioner Mazzucco should be glad he didn’t get the headlines he is seemingly asking for:
Cops Hit Autistic child with Beanbag Rounds But Hey, At Least They Didn’t Kill Him Like They Did All Those Other People!
If the mass scale media coverage of police killing, beating, tasing and generally displaying their overall disdain for people has brought one fact to light, it’s that we have a cop problem, not a media image problem. That police commission members don’t seem to get that is mind-boggling.
Hopefully there was a meeting of commissioners at some point where they asked: What are we going to do about these rotten cops in our department? How can we get the good ones to stand up to them? How can we engage our cops in more community involvement? What the hell are we going to do about those jerks at the San Francisco Police Officers Association who undermine all efforts toward accountability and improving service?
We all know the expression: If it bleeds, it leads. We have come to accept it as a media response to human nature; giving us what we want. However, if there’s no blood, then we will see more stories about a police horse retiring or other more pleasing events because reporters gotta report. Like sharks, they have to keep moving to keep water flowing through their gills.
No amount of PR power can change that.