“Why Cops Hate To Brag – And Why That’s An Issue”

By David Leibowitz

As a public relations and crisis communications professional who has spent the last dozen years representing cops and detention officers, here’s something I’ve learned firsthand.

Very few members of law enforcement like to boast.

I get it. Bragging seems distasteful for any number of reasons, including being given hell by our fellow officers, or simply not liking personal attention in an environment like policing, which is absolutely a team sport. With that said, sometimes police officers’ extreme reluctance to talk about the positive things they do works against them – especially in today’s anti-police media environment.

How does silence hurt the job? By creating a vacuum that others fill with negative stories about officers, departments and the profession generally. Put another way, if we refuse to detail with accuracy the good being done by law enforcement in communities across Arizona and the country, then the only news left is going to be bad news – the occasional rogue cop who does something wrong, or hyped-up allegations of brutality made by cop haters and anti-police political activists.

I often explain how the media works to people with a simple analogy: It’s a gas tank that’s essentially on “E” all the time. Every day, reporters have to fill up that tank with stories. Newspapers and news broadcasts love police stories because they’re easy to understand, they involve conflict and they hit with great emotion. So on a daily basis, there’s guaranteed to be police stories going out to the world. If no one suggests to a reporter, “Hey, you ought to cover how these cops spent time off-duty meeting with neighborhood leaders,” or “You know what’s cool, you should report on this officer who went back after a call to drop off toys for this family of kids,” then those stories will never get told. And instead we’ll be left with all the usual junk we hate about how cops are the devil.

I’m not saying every time an officer helps an old lady get to Walgreens, we should put out a press release. But when members of our squad or our colleagues on the frontlines do something above and beyond the call of duty, we should consider helping get them the recognition they deserve. We shouldn’t do it simply to stroke their egos (though praise is always nice). We should do it to help the public better understand what being a police officer is really like, and how the good apples represent the vast majority of cops.