Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Breaking News

It starts with a simple dispatched call. Maybe the officers are responding with lights and sirens. Maybe it is a simple non-emergency response. Either way, upon their arrival, what they learn may quickly become big news and the next thing you know, the media arrives.

In the next few moments, “Breaking News” is born. You will probably see a reporter who gives you a quick summary and then segues into a clip of an interview from someone who is involved. If it’s a police-related incident, you’ll likely see someone in uniform providing the who, what, when, where, why and how details. What you did not witness is the moments before that interview is taped. In that time, the officers on scene were probably having a “paper, rock, scissors” standoff to see who would have to complete the interview and face the news camera.

You see, I have many great police officers in the department but to ask one to stand in front of a camera and answer a reporter’s questions, well that takes a special personality. I realized a few years ago the City of Overland Park and the police related events that took place here would require someone dedicated to handle the news side of these calls. We call the officer that fulfills these duties the Public Information Officer or PIO.

In the City of Overland Park, the PIO must be knowledgeable of city ordinances and current events. As the face of the department, they must be polished, helpful, articulate, and appear at ease on camera. As if that isn’t enough, I also require my PIO to assist with daily administrative tasks from preparing letters and running errands to attending meetings and helping with various projects.

Why do I bring all this up? A recent promotion has forced me to start the process of looking for a new PIO. I have identified a handful of possible candidates within the department. These candidates have had to demonstrate their written communications skills as well as respond to personal interviews. The end goal is to find that perfect person to speak to you the next time “Breaking News” happens.