Those are the “two most dangerous words” a law enforcement administrator or spokesperson can utter these days after an officer-involved shooting, according to an excellent video presentation by Force Science Certification Course graduate Brian Willis which you can access on YouTube by CLICKING HERE.
Refusal to provide information on a major force event “will be interpreted as a cover-up,” Willis explains, “and often becomes the tipping point for determining how an incident plays out in a community.”
On other types of incidents, “police give the facts as they know them and talk about the ongoing investigation,” Willis says. When they refuse to do that after an OIS, it “opens the door for self-appointed and alleged experts, politicians, and special interest groups to comment. And their comments are often based on rumor, innuendo, speculation–always based on emotion, rarely based on facts.
“Within the law enforcement community, ‘no comment’ should no longer be acceptable,” Willis declares. Police executives “need to have the courage to give the facts as they know them,” with the assurance that corrections will be made if necessary as the investigation progresses.
The observations from Willis, a former Calgary (AB) officer internationally known for his popular Winning Mind training, came during a recent 18-minute appearance in Naperville (IL) for the TEDx Talk series that is posted on YouTube. He spoke before an audience of about 350, most of them civilians.
In addition to suggesting how information on a shooting can best be publicly communicated, he also addresses in the video such issues as the potential threats of “unarmed” people, the limitations of body cameras, and various often-overlooked factors in controversial shootings that are explored in depth in Force Science certification training.
“The important messages in this presentation,” says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, “can help law enforcement professionals strengthen their communication and can also serve to better inform civilians who are sincerely seeking reliable information as well as those who are skeptical of police in the current public tumult.”
Lewinski stresses that releasing some critical facts promptly after an OIS should not preclude allowing the involved officer(s) time for memory consolidation and emotional decompression before eliciting a fully detailed official statement about what happened.
A future edition of Force Science News will more specifically explore how to feed the public’s need for information before all particulars are known.
Brian Willis can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org