April 18, 2012

The Beating of APD

In a strange twist of “man bites dog”, the Albuquerque Police Department needs assistance from its own victim advocacy unit.

In the midst of civil rights accusations, court cases, high speed pursuits and so called “bounty pay” for officer-involved shootings, the Albuquerque Police Department has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

This blog post isn’t designed to provide fuel to either side of this heated political debate, it is only meant to provide APD some insight on how it can truly reshape public perception so their good deeds and all the “good cops” get noticed for the right reasons.

The negative headlines impact public opinion. In the 2012 Garrity Perception Survey, the community’s “trust” in police officers dropped from 55% in 2011 to 45% in 2012.  Specifically, in the Albuquerque area, only 42% of residents trust police officers.  That’s bad.

The scientific survey, conducted by Research and Polling in February 2012, for The Garrity Group Public Relations, has a 95% accuracy rate.

Does APD need to change its image?  If it wants to fend off political attacks, win trust and engage their community, then yes.

But whose mind do they want to change?  Or is it better to engage their supporters to be more vocal advocates?  Identifying the target audience is sometimes the most difficult step, but most important..  Those surveyed between 35-49 years of age and earning 60-79K annually had the biggest trust issue with APD.  A typical APD supporter has lived in New Mexico less than eight years and is 50 years of age and older.

Once APD has decided if it wants to convert its critics or encourage its supporters, messaging needs to be developed. APD should work to develop a genuine story, which showcases its team, their accomplishments and features how Albuquerque is a better place as a result of the work they do.

APD can ignite interest and build credibility with research (i.e. lower crime rates, crime reduction programs, safer roads); once outlined, a plan should be developed to connect with target audiences, sparking thought-provoking conversations.

This is best accomplished through a series of focus groups or surveys.

Change doesn’t take place overnight, and progress and outreach can be destroyed with one negative event (police shooting, scandal) or can be rallied with one positive event (lifesaving rescue).  But taking steps toward change will help to win friends and encourage supporters.

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