Lessons From The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Surrounding The Jonathan Ferrell Shooting: 4 Things They Did Right and 1 Fixable Mistake

1.     Communicating Immediately

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) was swift in their communication strategy to the media and the public. They did not allow the media to give the narrative of events, with gathered information and quotes. The CMPD were prompt in hosting a press conference within 24 hours of the incident. They knew the shooting would garner national attention, because it eerily embodies all the components of race relations (white police officer; Randall Kerrick, fatally shoots unarmed black male; Jonathan Ferrell, 24). The CMPD knew the investigation would gain national media momentum, and a jarring African-American community will want answers surrounding the circumstances of the situation — that is deplorably all too familiar.

2.     They Got It All Out

While it’s only human to want to conceal the worst parts of any situation; in this instance the investigation of an unarmed black male — and only wanting to disclose on a need-to-know basis, the CMPD were extremely transparent in their messaging. They were forthright in acknowledging after their initial investigation, that the Charlotte P O, Mr. Kerrick was “excessive” and “…did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.” Subsequently, Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter, while two other officers are on administrative paid leave pending the investigation.

This gave some assurance of accountability from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; taking into account the Black community’s embedded distrust of law enforcement — and the notion that law brethren will protect their own, even during adversity. This notion was rebuffed.

3.     Their Response Was About The Victim

Anytime there is innocent bystander(s), the moral thing to do is show empathy for the victim(s). Ferrell, an unarmed black-male whom suffered a severe late-night car crash went for help in an unfamiliar neighborhood, knocking on the nearest house repeatedly for help – only to get the door slammed in his unfamiliar face, and the police were called. When police arrived he ran toward them for help, only to be fatally shot 10 of the 12 times. Ferrell was unarmed. Police Chief Rodney Monroe expressed his empathy for the Ferrell Family, and the purportedly devastated Officer who shot Ferrell.

Furthermore, during the news conference Police Chief Rodney Monroe also mentioned the CMPD family, indicating they too are devastated by the fatality.

4.      Message Delivery Showed Empathy – Not Just Business As Usual Delivery

Police Chief Rodney Monroe’s press conference delivery was professional, authoritative and authentic. Police Chief Rodney Monroe; whom is also African-American, displayed an authentic empathy during his semi-scripted news conference. Semi- scripted because he was given talking points; however, he didn’t deliver the message like they were fed talking-points — a part of me thinks it resonates because the Chief knows all too well the plight of the black-male in America.

When you are perceived relatable to your public, your impact is sincere and trusted.


5.      The CMPD have NO “ACTIVE” Social Media presence

The last Twitter post on its handle was July 20th of this year, its sole Officer handle of Marty Cuthbertson’s last Twitter post was February of 2013, and its Facebook presence posts only about events in the city or with the department. There is a conversation happening without them, and this is a missed opportunity for them to enter a conversation that is happening without them surrounding the investigation and the Charlotte community.

Having a social presence in law enforcement to engage with the social community with timely, up-to-date and accurate information surrounding a high-profile investigation, would have been an even more effective strategy. The publics’ apprehension to the national media’s fluid reporting could have been rectified, had it come from the source – its law enforcement.

Great Examples of Police Social Media Engagement 

Boston PD entered the conversation immediately because they knew chatter about the investigation would happen with or without them.

      • True engagement that is displayed not just during a time of crisis — is illustrated through the Milwaukee Police Department’s social presence. It has personality, it often asks for the community’s help, and it provides up-to-date accurate information surrounding crime, events, and the department’s community engagement.
Reading cited: Seven Rules To Remember When a Crisis Strikes, Boston Police Schooled Us All on Social Media
Images via WorldStarHipHop, http://www.frugal-cafe.com

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