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Public Relations for Tactical Teams

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 56 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2008 Pages: 16,18,21
Cara Donlon-Cotton
Date Published
December 2008
5 pages
This article discusses how SWAT teams can be proactive and eliminate the negative media image portrayed to the public.
Many SWAT teams have public relations problems. Either they are seen as heroic rescuers or as overzealous and trigger-happy cowboys. Rarely are SWAT teams reported upon by the media for anything other than its purely good actions or its purely evil actions. Depending on the media portrayal or coverage of a SWAT team’s actions, public opinion follows the same train of thought. What is needed is for SWAT teams to address the public relations problem head on and try to eliminate the Evil SWAT portrait. One suggestion is to educate the media about how a SWAT team works so they, in turn, can educate the public. The goal is to change the imagery of SWAT teams so they are viewed as less aggressive and less violent. Another suggestion, when a SWAT team makes a mistake, such as storming the wrong house (possibly due to receiving the wrong address), explain the situation to the media immediately. Do not hide or wait for the media to come to SWAT. The situation can be positively turned, but only if the agency is proactive. It is imperative to explain SWAT’s priorities: victims, hostages, civilians, police, and then suspects. Departments should let the media see SWAT as a team composed of the agency’s elite officers, ones who have to train to make the team and sacrifice to remain, letting the training and discipline speak for itself.