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Use of Apology and Contrition in Law Enforcement Crisis Communication

Use of Apology and Contrition in Law Enforcement Crisis Communication

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Published by Joe Vargas
An analysis of the use of apology as a response to crisis communication in the Law Enforcement profession.
An analysis of the use of apology as a response to crisis communication in the Law Enforcement profession.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Joe Vargas on Sep 09, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/17/2013

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The Use of Apology1CONTRITION AND APOLOGYThe Use of Contrition and Apology in Law Enforcement CrisisCommunications a Case StudyJoe VargasMarch 19, 2008
 
The Use of Apology2Table of Contents
 Abstract
....................................................... 3
 
Introduction
................................................... 5
 
Compton “120 Shots” Incident
................................... 6
 
Law Enforcement and Apologia
................................... 8
 
Historical Attitudes and Responses ........................... 8
 
What is a Media Crisis? ..................................... 10
 
Literature Review
............................................. 11
 
Table 1 Benoit’s Image Restoration ...................... 14
 
Table 2 Coombs Crisis Responses ........................... 16
 
Liability and Apology ....................................... 17
 
The Role of Apology/Contrition .............................. 20
 
Discussion
.................................................... 22
 
Examination of the Media Response to 120 Shots Incident ..... 22
 
Table 3 “120 Shots Crisis Strategies” ....................... 23
 
Conclusion
.................................................... 27
 
 
The Use of Apology3
 Abstract
The area of crisis management has long been a contentiousand difficult arena for law enforcement leadership. Withtoday’s media capabilities the graphic visual imagery of policework permeates the living rooms of the American public everyday.Rarely a week seems to go by without a law enforcement agencycaught up in the throes of a media crisis. Given the historicaldistrust of the media, law enforcement executives often resortto a strict defensive apologia. They either quickly defend theactions of the officers involved or decline to comment until“further investigation” is completed {Lyon & Cameron 1999}. Theconsequences for inadequate response can oftentimes be severe.In many cases inadequate responses by police leadership hasresulted in significant organizational changes due to mediacoverage and the subsequent public outcry and political pressure{Surette 2003}.Does current crisis communication theory regarding apologyand contrition apply to law enforcement? This case study willlook at a nationally televised incident, the “120 shots”incident involving the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department andSheriff Lee Baca. The event had a high potential for negativeconsequences for the agency. Sheriff Baca employed a strategyconsisting of acknowledgement, apology and transparency. Thesestrategies while well practiced in the private sector have seen

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