Nelly Miles, recently appointed chair of the newly formed PIO Committee of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies (ASCIA) explains the important work and plans for the committee moving forward.
State criminal investigative agencies have a critical role in the criminal justice community. In many cases, investigators at these agencies will be asked to assist local law enforcement agencies with investigations that need an independent set of eyes, a specific skill set, additional resources, a more expansive reach, or even an impartial body to sort through local political issues that could cause a conflict of interest.
Many of these agencies find themselves investigating high profile officer involved shooting investigations, other use of force, and public corruption cases. These are the types of cases that have many eyeballs watching.
Public information officers are a vital part to the essential goal of building trust in communities. The importance of sharing accurate and timely information during critical incidents cannot be overstated. Being transparent during this process must be the standard.
Recently, the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies (ASCIA) unanimously voted to form a PIO committee in its organization. I was appointed as Chair.
If you’re not familiar with ASCIA, allow me to educate you. ASCIA is a professional association consisting of the senior executives of the statewide criminal investigative agencies in the United States, whether they are an independent bureau within the state or a state police agency with both criminal and other enforcement responsibilities.
This body of executives understood the importance of forming a PIO committee. Their decision underscores the need for all law enforcement agencies to have a strong communications staff, whether it be one person, a mighty few, or a large team.
As Chair, I have a few initial goals:
- Create a database containing each public information officer/communications member of all ASCIA/state level agencies. The organization currently has 49 state members
- Share best practices in handling and communicating about officer involved shooting investigations
- Ensure that communications professionals are plugged in to the available training opportunities present for PIOs
- Network with member agencies to ensure the timely exchange of information and sharing of expertise
- Collaborate with other organizations’ PIO committees, like the International Association of Chiefs of Police – PIO section
When I first began my stint in communications, I had spent 16 years in forensic science. I had no idea how impactful a network like this was. For years, I attended conferences here and there, tucking away useful tips and nuggets that I thought I would never have to pull out. But then in 2020, after 4 years as the GBI’s Public & Governmental Affairs Director, the biggest case of a lifetime landed in the GBI’s lap. Our team of two, consisting of me and GBI’s public & governmental affairs Deputy Director Natalie Ammons, pulled every communications tip & trick that we had gathered over the years. We leaned on the people in our networks to get us through the most difficult moments in our careers.
I’m calling on every ASCIA member agency that has communications professionals to be part of this committee. We need to come together now more than ever to grab that narrative tight and tell the true story of policing. We owe it to our communities, and we owe it to the men and women with boots on the ground, running towards danger every day.
I am proud to speak for these heroes and look forward to serving as Chair of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies’ PIO committee.