As part of our PIO People series we spoke with Assistant Chief Woetena of City of League City Police Department after he attended the FBI-LEEDA's Media and Public Relations course.
Recognizing the importance of media management and the Public Information Officer, Cliff knew he wanted to support his PIOs even more. The course lead, Captain Adam Myrick, PIO with Lexington County Sheriff's Department recommended the AP (Associated Press) Stylebook to the class and Cliff was keen to share what he learnt.
How would you describe the community that your police department serves?
League City is an upper middle class bedroom community. We are roughly a 115,000 person city on the south side of Houston. Our city fosters an active lifestyle and is a wonderful place to raise a family.
What does a dedicated PIO bring to your role and the wider community?
Our dedicated PIO provides a central hub for our community to stay engaged with their police department. He works hand in hand with our city communications team to keep information readily accessible to our citizens. Having a dedicated person allows him to focus on proactive engagement, as well as being able to monitor trends around the country to see if we are keeping pace with the technological landscape. In today’s society of 24/7 access, we, as an agency, need to ensure that we can meet that demand for information and continuously strive to build relationships with those we serve.
Our legitimacy as a law enforcement agency is only as strong as our relationships within the community we serve.
What prompted you to buy everyone in your team a copy of the AP Stylebook? What was the reaction when you got back to your team with the gifts?
After listening to Adam speak about the importance of accuracy and formatting concerning all written correspondence, I felt the AP Stylebook would be an important resource for our team. Our job is to provide information articulately and accurately to our community and any resource that would help us ensure professionalism in our writings is of vital importance.
If such a small investment could potentially be of benefit to our team, then the decision to make the purchase was very simple to make. The team appreciated the gift and I have been pleased to see it on their desks next to their keyboards.
What would you say your biggest take away was from the course?
Our legitimacy as a law enforcement agency is only as strong as our relationships within the community we serve. I cannot point to a singular defining moment, but I know that maintaining open communications with our stakeholders is essential to building trust with our citizens.
The course solidified this belief and provided numerous accounts of agencies failing to keep their citizens properly informed. It is my greatest hope that our agency never be one of the examples of “what not to do” in future PIO courses.
To ignore our community’s need for clear, accurate and professional information is a failure of service delivery.
What would you say to anyone else in a leadership role about having a PIO who might not have one?
A professional communications team is as essential to today’s law enforcement agencies as patrol officers and detectives. To ignore our community’s need for clear, accurate and professional information is a failure of service delivery. We must be a trusted source of transparent information to our media outlets and those we serve. Society has become a constant consumer of information, and we must be prepared to meet that demand.
What would be one piece of advice you would give to someone who works in police communications (media handling).
Always remember, you are the face of the organization. Your role is to provide transparent, accurate and professional information regardless of the subject matter.
FBI-LEEDA provide regular professional media training courses.