Public Administration on Public Information Officer’s Role in American Law Enforcement

Public Information Officer’s Role in American Law Enforcement

            For a long period, several police agencies in the United States have created public information officers (PIO) that mainly communicate with many audiences, predominantly the media. Despite the fact that most PIO define their functions as media-inclined and responsive, they apply management-focused practical approaches that are in line with recognized public relations models. Generally, the PIOs carry out several customary public relations roles, which have been significant in moving law enforcement from a closed to a more open system of communication in the society. commonly, law enforcement agencies receive negative coverage by the media which dents their image. In response to negative publicity, law enforcement agencies have put in place measures of repairing their image in the eyes of the public. Furthermore, other police departments have played a significant role in creating a more unswerving and operational system of communication with the public, explicitly through their public information units. The current paper discusses the importance of public information officers (PIO) and how instrumental they are in moving the law enforcement’s communication system from a closed to a more open system.

            Currently, Public information activities are perceived as integral in police activities, principally, because the contemporary society has become progressively technological and media inclined. For example, after several negative instances took place in the Los Angeles Police Department, the agency undertook a more preemptive strategy of addressing the needs of the media and creating constructive stories to reestablish public confidence in the police (Stateman). According to Kelly, the former president of the National Information Officers Association (NIOA) as well as the editor of the NIOA News stated, “The luxury of deliberation and reflection is rapidly disappearing, as the traditional news cycle erodes into a continuous blur. We find ourselves inundated with broad requests, even demands, for information from varied sources, all conditioned to expect immediate answers” (p.2). In a rejoinder to the need for more information, several intermediate-and large-sized metropolitan agencies and federal law enforcement agencies have created public information offices as extensions to their overall operations within specific locations. Avowed law enforcing officers, in addition to the growing population of civilian personnel with communication backgrounds, are taking up the functions of public information officer (PIO). The main role of the position is to inform the media and the general public concerning the agency’s actions, and happenings relating to the law enforcing agencies. Therefore, the growth in the public information position has created a huge demand for nationwide and statewide-proficient associations that offer PIOs with preparation and qualified development opportunities. The NIOA is an example of an entity whose members comprise the law enforcement and emergency medicine PIOs originating from the United States and Canada. NIOA members assemble at annual conferences in professional development seminars. Such seminars also provide an opportunity for members to interrelate with their colleagues from other agencies. Other certified associations, for instance, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Sheriff’s Association have also created exceptional public information task forces that are aimed at developing the policing segment.

            The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), for instance, is one of the oldest and major law enforcement agencies in the United States. The department controls a population of almost 1.5 million with around 6,526 sworn officers and 834 civilian staff, totalling 7,360 personnel (Fachnern and Scarter 10).  The PPD is the main law enforcement agency with its functions across Philadelphia County. The department’s activities exemplify the increasing intricacy of the role of police in society. Nonetheless, the incorporation of effective communication approach has ensured that the agency’s undertakings evolve from reactive to positive in its fight against crime. The department has incorporated evolutionary strategies through public interactions, in its operation, hence developing an open communication.

            The PIOs are also significant among the law enforcement’s focus on community relations and the ensuing incorporation of a more formalized communication or public relations activities. The formation of the PIO was somewhat a reaction to the major social and political occurrences that took place in the United States. The events included the metropolitan uprisings and civil rights remonstrations. Since the public uproar concerning the police strategies applied in handling the hot-blooded situations during this period were severe, the practices were defied. The strategies also led to the formation of the federal level consultative advisories, which commended police reorganizations. Nonetheless, the formation of the PIO has enhanced a sturdier community relations programs as well as a more positive news media relation (International Association of Chiefs of Police and United States of America 7). The PIO has opened avenues to the formation of press offices besides public information units, which assist the law enforcing agencies in effectively addressing the media and acting openly with the public in communicating information.

            There have been several misconceptions about the role of PIO despite the fact that it is a significant arm of communication function. For instance, whereas most PIOs’ role is labeled as media-relations-focused, there are some aspects of the communication by the PIO that depart from the traditional one-way public information ideal. The PIO, apart from communication, ensures that law enforcing agencies voluntarily uphold high standards in all facets of law enforcement, for instance, crime control and prevention, service delivery, agency harmonization, and community relations (Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies 54).The PIO has created explicit values on public information that focus on the objective of advising the public and news media about the occurrences that impact the lives of citizens in the community with honesty and openness. Good working relations between the police and the public is exemplified through community policing (Brown 1). The public information function enhances a more open system of communication whereby the public information section defines the PIO function.

Several law enforcement agencies are currently employing PIO that are aimed at enhancing public information programs, which update the public and also community members about law enforcement activities. Despite the fact that the police reform efforts and approval decrees have enhanced the image of a professional police body, there is immense attention from the media on both at local and federal levels events encompassing dubious police strategies. Negative notions of the public towards the police have continued to be an impediment to the relationship between the two parties. For example, the use of force by the police and the magnitude to which the officers adhere to standard police procedures at a crime scene are part of the issues that promote public criticism of the police. These concerns, in addition to the impacts of waning resources on police department activities, increase the necessity of the police to uphold public support. Through informing and integrating the public through the PIOs, law enforcing agencies expect to help the public understand the that the incidents of failure to follow police procedure and other crimes committed by rogue police officers, should not be used to gauge the entire police body. Additionally, the police through IPOs intend to inform the public about steps taken to discipline such police officers.

The PIOs have also enhanced the creation of citizen confidence towards law enforcing agencies and, consequently, end the negative publicity. Certainly, citizen support is core to law enforcing agencies in projecting a confident image. According to Motschall, Melissa, and Liqun, the police department, more than any other government agency, requires the indulgence and support of the public. This level of support and understanding also enhances the functioning of the municipal and government entities. Furthermore, police leaders have talked about the significance of citizens’ support and police responsibility to the public during national meetings (US Dep’t of Justice 21). The importance of extensive media and citizen consideration among the police is important in ensuring that law enforcing agencies protect cities, departments, and other personnel from the destruction of citizen buoyancy and negative publicity.

The PIO enhancement of citizen support and a confident police image is also significant in addressing the problem of fading resources, or budgetary constrictions of law enforcing agencies attained through an open system of communication. The Federal General Revenue Sharing dues as well as the state and local funds have decreased. Consequently, the funding of several police departments that depend on tax have been drastically reduced. Therefore, law enforcing agencies are encouraged to look for alternate ways of funding to increase their activities, for instance, through private contributions, donations, and indenture. Law enforcement agencies, therefore, through open communication systems, need to present their cases to citizens. Nonetheless, this can only be effective through open public presentations undertaken by the PIOs. The PIOs can also create effective working associations with the media, thereby forming special events and organizing for press conferences that attract positive publicity from the police. The police professionals associate respectable publicity by the PIOs with a confident public image. A positive public image is significant in the reduction of citizens’ criticisms at the same time encouraging taxpayers’ courtesy in advocating for additional revenue measures intended to subsidy the law enforcement agencies.

The PIOs are significant because their roles of comprehensive communication address the necessity for more operative public relations among law enforcing agencies. Regardless of the perception of the efforts of public information or public affairs, the PIO communication functions have addressed the issues that relate to communication barriers. Moreover, the objective of public relations by the PIOs is perceived as a high precedence in relation to the law enforcing agency’s general activities, which heavily depend on public support. Law enforcement agencie’s public relations undertakings need to be preserved at all costs and be granted priority by the agency administration. The function of PIO in the agency’s public relations is aimed at manipulating the public’s admiration, sureness, and endorsement for the agency’s activities and efforts. Through the PIOs, the police are encouraged to exercise control on their image since the level of citizen openness, buoyancy, and budget decisions are apparently swayed by this form of image.

The PIOs roles have addressed the environmental factors, which necessitated the need for law enforcement’s public information programs and professional standards. The programs have become significant in shifting the agency from the perceived paramilitary positioning to a service work style, hence enhancing open communication. According to Culbertson (13), law enforcing agency currently engages more in community-service initiatives. The service strategy inspires the public to work in collaboration with the police in decreasing crime and accentuates on the constructive police-citizen relations as evident in the public expression of support of the service approach, mainly through programs such as community policing.

Traditionally, public relations practices included several deliberate communication actions aimed at establishing links between an organization and its publics (Saffer, Taylor and Yang 2). These actions included media relations, engagement, exploration, administration, special events, speaking, and producing communications, for instance, print and video (Cutlipetal 36). Similarly, PIO law enforcing undertakings are characteristically media-relations engrossed, comprising several traditional public relations actions, for instance, organization of special events and creation of newsletters. Moreover, many PIOs assume management roles in the law enforcing agencies, hence controlling press strategy and instructing the leaders on press matters (Guffey). Therefore, PIOs are significant personnel within the law enforcing agencies regarding public relations objectives. Therefore, they enhance an open communication between the public and the agencies.

The formation of PIO in several law enforcing agencies also serves the needs of both large and mid-sized police organizations of consolidating the information issued by the organization. Before the formation of the PIO, there were several appeals for information from law enforcing agencies, predominantly from media agencies, which were often snubbed or replied with “no comment.” Such conducts triggered several deceptive conceptions about the police, for instance, cover-ups. As a result, the public information role was being created as a rejoinder to the obstacles to police integrity and for agencies to be more approachable to their environment in enhancing an open communication system (Davies 1). The public information series, as approaches for adaptation, are significant means that both the police and the public manage with obstinate social problems.

Law enforcement agencies have established media relations, community relations, and public information functions through PIO, which are aimed at establishing a more open system of information exchange between the agencies and the public. This goal is attained through effective communication in addressing several issues (Mawby 126). During the process, the law enforcing agencies are able to manage their work and try to impact their spectators’ discernments.

Currently, the PIO position has formally become part of the law enforcing agencies. In fact, the current inclination is increasing PIO appointments among law enforcement agencies through full time employment. There are differences between distinct professional PIO associations (Surette 111). Most of the PIOs are engrossed in a wide range of responsibilities, for instance, answering media concerns, responding to public records appeals, and organizing news meetings and news conversations with other personnel. All these functions, within law enforcing agencies, are aimed at ensuring a smooth communication between the police and the public. The communication interaction created is significant in ensuring an open communication between the two parties, hence building trust and confidence. Therefore, the PIO function in enhancing open communication between law enforcing agencies and the public has played a significant role in the execution of the agencies’ role and the safety of the public.

Annotated Bibliography

Davis, Patrick, et al. “The PIO and Today’s Digital News Environment.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 79.7 (2010).

The source analyzes the nature of news media and how drastically business has transformed. It examines the innovations and inventions in the news coverage through technological devices, for instance, camera phones and the Internet usage in information and news reporting. These devices are significant in enhancing collaboration and public relations in police communications.

Brown, Lee P. Community policing: A practical guide for police officials. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, 1989.

The source reports on the future of the American policing and its improvement concerning the sharing of information with the public. The authors focus on the police agencies’ strategies on community based and problem-solving policing oriented. According to the author, the integration of the community policing approaches by law enforcing agencies is a significant step towards how the American business would undertake its responsibilities.

International Association of Chiefs of Police, and United States of America. “Building Trust Between the Police and the Citizens They Serve: An Internal Affairs Promising Practices Guide for Local Law Enforcement.” (2009).

The source underpins the importance of creating and upholding community trust, which is a significant element in successful policing and law enforcement. The source reiterates the notion that building and maintaining this trust between the police and the public is an ongoing effort. Nonetheless, the source emphasizes that the ethical actions of numerous police officers, in most cases, are easily destroyed by unethical actions of few police officers. After such instances, communication through public relations becomes core in ensuring that the image of the law enforcing agency is not destroyed.

Fachner, George, and Steven Carter. “Collaborative reform initiative: An assessment of deadly force in the Philadelphia Police Department.” Unpublished report. Submitted by the CNA Corporation to the USDOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (2015).

The source provides a technical report on the present and future states of lethal force approaches, drill, analysis, and undertakings of the Philadelphia Police Department. The assessment was undertaken by a team of researchers in a one-year period. According to the source, it was established that the main objective of reform in the use takes into account the best practices and community expectations of the police.

Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., and United States of America. “Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies: The Standards Manual of the Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Program.” (1983).

This Standards Manual source is the main journal of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Initially, the standards were established by the four major law enforcement executive membership associations, which are International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs Association, and the Police Executive Research Forum. The source discusses their roles, particularly in upholding effective communication in the policing.

Motschall, Melissa, and Liqun Cao. “An analysis of the public relations role of the police public information officer.” Police Quarterly 5.2 (2002): 152-180.

The source discusses different police agencies that have established public informationofficer (PIO) functions. According to the authors, the PIOs main function is to communicate with a variety of audiences, predominantly the media. According to the source, despite several roles associated with the PIOs, their main function is to liaison with the media reactive. The source also acknowledges the PIOs skills in management, which are in line with recognized public relations approaches. According to the source, PIOs undertake several functions, including the traditional public relations that are significant in shifting the law enforcement from a closed to a more open system of communication.

Mawby, Rob C. “Police corporate communications, crime reporting and the shaping of policing news.” Policing & Society 20.1 (2010): 124-139.

This article discusses police forces in England and Wales in recent years in their attempt to improve the ways in which they communicate. The need for improved communication is attributed to several reasons, for instance, pressure from technological media developments, the government, and public pressure to deliver encouraging policing services. According to the article, the same media expansions have also impacted news organizations and the analyses of the relations between the media and police communications.

Culbertson, Hugh M. “A key step in police-community relations: Identify the Divisive Issues.” Public Relations Quarterly 45.1 (2000): 13.

This article discusses the fact that law enforcement has become part of public relations in the recent development. According to the source, many people fear and have confidence in the law enforcing agencies and the police. Therefore, for this relationship to improve, there must be an effective police relational communication improvement that understands the fact complexities and divisive issues that exist.

Cutlip, S. M. “Centre, AH & Broom, GM (2000), Effective Public Relations.”

This source discusses effective Public Relations field. The book reviews several developments aimed at advancing public relations toward professional status. This edition is a continuation of the definition of public relations as a profession in schools and effective application by the practitioners. The source is a reference point to individuals practicing public relations globally.

Guffey, James E. “The police and the media: Proposals for managing conflict productively.” Am. J. Police 11 (1992): 33.

This source points out the fact that the police and the media are two entities that habitually interact. According to the author, the relationship between the police and the media can be considered to be symbiotic. According to the article, it is apparent that both the police and the media need each other, a relationship that has not been productive for a long term.

Surette, R. (2001). Public information officers: The civilianization of a criminal justice profession. Journal of Criminal Justice, 29(2), 107-117.

The article talks about Criminal Justice Public Information Officers (PIOs) who are exclusive in the criminal justice field. The PIOs act as concierges in the creation of crime and justice information. According to the source, the PIOs have also moved their roles from specifically criminal justice and communication degrees to incorporate a broader responsibility.

Saffer, A. J., M. Taylor, and A. Yang. “Political public relations in advocacy: Building online influence and social capital.” Public Relations Journal 7.4 (2013): 1-35.

This article discusses how political public relations happenings support activism initiatives and permit entities to communicate and partner with other organizations to bring about change. The authors scrutinize the organizational relationships in terms of political advocacy. The article provides that a connected social capital offers a hypothetical framework for expansion of the study of relationships. This is important with regards to relations between the police and the community, which is necessary to bring about change.

US Dep’t of Justice, “Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens.” (2003): 14.

This source discusses the functions of the staff of the Community Relations Service alongside the law enforcement executives. The article provides the guiding ideologies that need to direct the police functions in the community. According to the source, the fundamental supposition is that a police force and the community it serves need to reach an agreement on the standards that control the police force. For a long time, the Community Relations Service (CRS) in the United States Department of Justice has been significant in assisting the police departments and communities across the nation to maintain law and order in an intricate and varying multicultural society.

Works Cited

Brown, Lee P. Community policing: A practical guide for police officials. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, 1989.

Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., and United States of America. “Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies: The Standards Manual of the Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Program.” (1983).

Culbertson, Hugh M. “A key step in police-community relations: Identify the Divisive Issues.” Public Relations Quarterly 45.1 (2000): 13.

Cutlip, S. M. “Centre, AH & Broom, GM (2000), Effective Public Relations.”

Davis, Patrick, et al. “The PIO and Today’s Digital News Environment.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 79.7 (2010).

Fachner, George, and Steven Carter. “Collaborative reform initiative: An assessment of deadly force in the Philadelphia Police Department.” Unpublished report. Submitted by the CNA Corporation to the USDOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (2015).

Guffey, James E. “The police and the media: Proposals for managing conflict productively.” Am. J. Police 11 (1992): 33.

International Association of Chiefs of Police, and United States of America. “Building Trust Between the Police and the Citizens They Serve: An Internal Affairs Promising Practices Guide for Local Law Enforcement.” (2009).

Mawby, Rob C. “Police corporate communications, crime reporting and the shaping of policing news.” Policing & Society 20.1 (2010): 124-139.

Motschall, Melissa, and Liqun Cao. “An analysis of the public relations role of the police public information officer.” Police Quarterly 5.2 (2002): 152-180.

Saffer, A. J., M. Taylor, and A. Yang. “Political public relations in advocacy: Building online influence and social capital.” Public Relations Journal 7.4 (2013): 1-35.

Surette, R. (2001). Public information officers: The civilianization of a criminal justice profession. Journal of Criminal Justice, 29(2), 107-117.

US Dep’t of Justice, “Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence Between Police and Citizens.” (2003): 14.