6 ways cops can handle the spotlight like a pro

Thanks to body cameras, dash cams, and self-proclaimed citizen-journalists armed with smartphones, cops don’t stand a chance of staying off YouTube. So what happens when all eyes are on you? Public speaking isn’t a part of your police training — yet saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can destroy your career.

So what happens when an everyday good deed you’ve done goes viral, and your phone is ringing off the hook? Here’s some advice from cops who have been there.

1. Give yourself at least a full day after the event that brought you media attention to soak it all in and decide how you want to approach the topic. A good night’s sleep can really put things into perspective.

2. Inform your family and close friends who may also be contacted by media about the issue. Be very clear in telling them what to say and what not to say if approached. How often do you hear in a news report, “A close friend of the family tells us...”?

3. Speak to your department’s media relations unit. That is, after all, why they’re there. When Boston police officer Steve Horgan became an overnight sensation for his celebratory bullpen pose, he credited his media relations team for prepping him appropriately for his first press conference.

4. Remember: time is on your side. Think your answer over in your head before you say it out loud. Both what you say and how you say it will be overanalyzed by the media, so do your own overanalyzing first.

5. Don’t give the press any ammo. Regardless of whether you’re in the spotlight for positive or negative attention, they’ll always be digging for dirt. Keep all social media accounts private, and be aware of any photos your friends and family post.

6. Be aware of the contact information your department makes available. Is your phone number or email address listed on your department’s website? More and more departments lately have a press secretary who filters all incoming calls and emails so that you can decide who to respond to. 

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