Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative
Aug 18, 2014
Communications staff at law enforcement agencies play an important role in meeting public expectations for transparency and responsiveness to concerns. Despite their importance, little is known about their needs. In April 2021, researchers convened a workshop of 14 individuals in law enforcement who identified 26 needs to improve the profession that spanned best practices, organizational issues, information-sharing, and staff development.
Identifying High-Priority Needs for Law Enforcement Public Information Officers
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The ability to communicate effectively with the public is critical to the success of law enforcement agencies. Especially as the public increasingly expects law enforcement to exhibit transparency and rapid responsiveness to community concerns, communications proficiency often has a significant impact on an agency's overall success. Public information officers (PIOs) and other staff with public communications responsibilities are often the focal point for this engagement with communities, and it is vital that agencies use them effectively. Despite the importance of law enforcement PIOs, their needs have received relatively little attention.
To better understand the needs of law enforcement with respect to PIOs, RAND researchers and the Police Executive Research Forum convened a workshop to identify high-priority needs to improve the law enforcement PIO profession. Through a series of interviews and group discussion sessions, the researchers gathered input from various subject-matter experts, who identified and prioritized a total of 26 needs related to PIOs. Of these 26, nine needs were identified as high-priority. These high-priority needs addressed issues related to responding to civil unrest; gauging community sentiment; engaging in rapid communication; establishing the value of PIOs beyond information dissemination to the public; developing guidance on characteristics of effective PIOs; proactively addressing community issues; effectively addressing community criticism; and building professional development opportunities and training for public communications staff.
The research described in this report was supported by the National Institute of Justice and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.
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