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Minute by minute: How Kansas City PD handled the communication response to the Super Bowl parade shooting

Julie Parker speaks with Captain Jake Becchina about managing crisis communications during a shooting incident at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade

A critical incident can happen at any time, in any community, across the country. Sharing information about these incidents is one cog in the overall response wheel, but it’s one that cannot be overlooked. It’s crucial to effectively communicate both during and after a critical incident. Police1 is launching a new feature that dives into the communication response to some of the most significant incidents law enforcement agencies have recently faced.

Julie Parker, President of Julie Parker Communications, specializing in law enforcement media relations and social media, is spearheading this spotlight on crisis communications.

In this episode, Julie interviews Captain Jake Becchina who found himself at the helm of a communications crisis following the shooting that occurred amid the jubilation of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade, which tested the Kansas City Police Department’s preparedness, communication strategies and resilience. Becchina’s account sheds light on the complexities of responding to a crisis in real time, the importance of swift and transparent communication, and the role of law enforcement in ensuring public safety during unforeseen tragedies.

Key quotes from Captain Jake Becchina

  • On immediate response: “In my experience as a PIO, I’ve been in the middle of a handful of things, and you start thinking, okay, what’s happening? You start making mental notes of what you’re hearing the officers are doing and then start thinking about how am I going to communicate that.”
  • On managing information: “The quicker you can drive everybody to that Twitter page... that’s your best and most efficient way of communicating in a timeline-type format information that is easily digestible and easily able to be gathered from anywhere in the world.”
  • On media relations: “Relationships with the media are important, relationships with your prosecutors and your prosecutor communications teams are huge because you’re literally going to be passing the baton to them.”
  • On teamwork and preparation: “If your Chief is not somebody who speaks that [media] language, it’s on you to educate them. Let them know what a situation like this is going to look like.”
  • On the impact of the event: “It’s a sickening feeling to watch that taking place, hearing the radio traffic, knowing what is taking place, and literally just seeing people panic and run for their lives.”
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Be prepared for the throng of media at any critical incident.

Key takeaways

1. Preparedness is paramount: The KCPD’s prior experience with large-scale events like Super Bowl parades provided a framework for their response, but each crisis demands unique strategies and flexibility.

2. Communication is critical: Effective use of social media and direct communication with the media played a crucial role in managing public perception and safety information during the crisis.

3. Collaboration across agencies: Building strong relationships with local media, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agencies before a crisis hits is essential for a coordinated response.

4. Rapid adaptation: The fast-paced development of the situation required the KCPD to quickly adapt their communication strategy, prioritizing social media to disseminate information widely and efficiently.

5. The human element: Beyond the logistics of crisis management, the emotional and psychological impact on officers, victims, and the community at large underscores the need for compassionate and empathetic communication.

Captain Becchina’s reflections provide valuable lessons for law enforcement professionals nationwide on the challenges and complexities of managing communications during a public safety crisis.

Julie Parker speaks with Captain Jake Becchina about managing crisis communications during a shooting incident at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade
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Julie Parker has a unique and extensive background in television and radio news, media relations and crisis communications, having served as both an Emmy award-winning TV news reporter, the media relations director for two of our nation’s largest police departments and as a senior media advisor for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. She guides for-profit, nonprofit and government organizations as part of the communications consultancy she founded in 2014. Among Julie’s most noteworthy accomplishments was directing the public information strategy for a county government serving a diverse population of 1.1 million people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2011, Julie left the world of general assignment reporting for a greater challenge: serving as director of the Media Relations Bureaus for the Fairfax County and Prince George’s County Police Departments. Both law enforcement agencies are among the top 40 largest in the nation. For seven years, she served as the principal communications advisor to the chief of police and other executive command staff and was responsible for key messages, media strategy and the management of and strategy behind robust social media operations. The Washington Post highlighted Julie’s success with social media in this article.

Julie calls upon her 20 years in police media relations and broadcast news during her various projects with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Mobile Education Team, regular speaking appearances at the FBI National Academy, and law enforcement and social media conferences. Additionally, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing invited Ms. Parker to provide written testimony on technology and social media. Connect with Julie on Twitter at @JulieParkerComm and LinkedIn.