POLICE Magazine Supplements

Special Report 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1113595

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Page 5 of 19

The School Shooting O n April 2, 2012, a gunman entered the grounds of Oi- kos University—a small college in Oakland attended by mostly Korean-American members of the community. A 43-year-old former student at the school—identified as One Goh—entered a classroom armed with a .45-caliber hand- gun, ordered students there to line up against a wall, and opened fire. Seven people were killed. ree others were wounded. Very soon aer the incident happened the local news media descended on the scene, setting up that small city of satellite vehicles. Watson and her team mobilized and set up a media staging area where she could give updates as information became avail- able. One of the early decisions that had to be made was where to conduct those media briefings—a balance between provid- ing access and ensuring safety was the primary consideration. "It was close to where the incident was happening but it wasn't so close where we were endangering anyone," Watson says. "It was close enough for them to get good footage but not dangerous for anyone." Watson suggests that in an incident like the one she experi- enced in April 2012, it's a good idea to set a predictable sched- ule for conducting media briefings. She says that even in the event that there are really no new updates, the PIO and the rest of the team should stick to the schedule. is makes life easier on your media partners—and she stresses that the media are indeed your partners when a critical incident occurs—and ul- timately also easier on the media relations team. Another early decision Watson faced was how to use social media to communicate with the press and the public. At the time of the Oikos incident, Oakland PD did not engage the community on Facebook or Twitter—their single social me- dia channel was Nixle, a platform designed specifically for law en- forcement communications directly to the citizens they protect. "Nixle was our first social media platform," Watson says. "We had just started to use it. I mean, we probably hadn't used it more than a handful of times. When the event initiated, we immediately started using our social media platform." Foreign Press B ecause Oikos is attended by students from other coun- tries—primarily Korea, but other nations as well—the team had to take into account the fact that there would almost certainly be non-English-speaking news media arriving as the days followed the event. Watson described a lesson learned at the end of that first day involving those international media members. She was leaving the campus when she made an unexpected discovery. "One of the traffic officers stopped me and says, 'ank God you're here.' I said, 'For what?' He said, 'Because the media's been waiting for you.' I said, "No, no, no, no. You don't under- stand. We've been dealing with media all day long. ey have all their information, we've done multiple briefings." She walked with the officer around a group of parked fire trucks behind which were a group of satellite trucks—a second small city of media vans, cameras, lights, and scurrying report- ers, none of whom had apparently received word about the lo- cation of the briefing area. "I'd never seen trucks that size. I realized they were not from our local media outlets. And they were not people coming down from Sacramento or up from LA. e first person I met was a reporter from Brazil and there was also a French reporter. ey did not realize or have the information to go on the other side of the perimeter where we all were," Watson says. She walked to the podium and proceeded to deliver an iden- tical briefing to the one she had just concluded moments before. "It must have been maybe 50 or 60 reporters there, so that was a major lesson for me on how to ensure that everybody is all at the same location so that that doesn't happen." Now, at every large-scale scene with a wide perimeter, she sends a patrol officer out to make a circle around the area— including nearby side streets—to look for media who are un- aware of where the briefings are being held. "We designate a person to drive the perimeter and act as a scout. Not just once, but every half-hour just ride around the pe- rimeter and also check some of the other pocket areas because we know sometimes media can't get into the perimeter," she says. New to the Job W atson says that she may have benefited from being new to her job as the OPD spokesperson when Oikos happened. "I was a brand new PIO—I don't even think I'd been on a year—so everything was still fresh in my mind about laws and what media can and can't do," she says. is became useful when she had to move the briefing area farther from the scene. She was able to cite specific codes that required the media to obey the decision to move the briefing area farther back from the scene. "If one media outlet didn't move, everybody else would be staying and we're talking about probably 30 or 40 people at the time," Watson says. Watson says that following the Oikos incident, the OPD media relations team received kudos from myriad members of the press. "When we manage incidents, media will be extremely crit- ical of what you did right, what you did wrong, and how you can improve. at's the one incident that so far in my career the media has said, 'You guys did everything right,' which is unheard of in our PIO world." Controversial OIS O ne of the reasons for the positive response from the press and the public to OPD's operations during the Oikos shooting may have been because the responding officers did an excellent job of securing the scene. e scene was quickly secured, the gunman arrested and taken into custody. e first responders were pretty universally viewed as the heroes that they are. On other occasions the media and public have been more hostile. Watson recounted how she worked with the media following 6 | SP E C I A L R E P O RT | C R I T ICA L I NC I D E N T R E S P O N S E Working with the Media After a Critical Incident

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