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Paperback Book Details
  • 04/2024
  • 9781957651705
  • 302 pages
  • $20.00
Christopher Cook
The Art Of Strategic Communication: A Police Chief's Guide To Mastering Soundbites, Storytelling, And Community Engagement

Adult; Political & Social Sciences; (Market)

In today's fast-paced environment, the speed at which communication travels and the resounding calls for police accountability demonstrate a need for purposeful and intentional communications embedded in a strategic mindset. When done right, strategic communication can increase transparency, build trust, and encourage active community participation. Chief Cook has distilled over thirty years of experience into timely lessons filled with practical solutions that law enforcement leaders and communicators can begin implementing right away.
North Texas police chief's 'Cook' book outlines best media practices for police

DALLAS - For years, White Settlement Police Chief Christopher Cook was the public information officer in Arlington's police department. His practice has been that the media is not the enemy but a bridge for law enforcement to the community it serves. Now, he's teaching that to police chiefs across the state of Texas through his new book.

The Department of Justice asked Cook to come up with a guidebook for police following his congressional testimony after the George Floyd controversy in 2020.

Every police chief in Texas will get Cook’s book, "The Art of Strategic Communication," and sit in his training.

“The one thing that I'm really trying to convey to leaders across the profession — and a lot of police leaders are already doing this — is that we talk through the media to the community," Cook said. "Bad news does not get better because you stick your head in the sand, and you don't want to talk about it."

The White Settlement police chief has been teaching this art to all 2,700 police chiefs in Texas.

The guidebook discusses how to openly respond to critical incidents, like officer-involved shootings.

Cook recommends telling the facts you know and to release the video sooner rather than later. While some departments do, some big and small don't.

“That is usually the first step in, number one, healing and, number two, that really brings the community temperature down because you're being transparent," he said.

As chiefs sat in class this week, Cook says the number one topic from North Texas police chiefs has been police chases.

Police pursuits can be dramatic and also dangerous. Policies vary from department to department and can sometimes have bad endings with innocent people being hurt or killed.

Cook says whether the facts or good, bad or ugly, "you have to get in front of it."

Greg Stevens is director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, a state regulatory agency for all peace officers.

"We are learning that valuable lesson that if we're not talking somebody else is, and that's often going to be incorrect or inaccurate information," he said. "The more that we can educate and inform and reach out to the people that we serve, the more success that we can have in that partnership of law enforcement and the community."

The book serves as a guide to police becoming their own storytellers, and by doing so, building transparency and trust.

"There's a bunch of other stuff in the book, too, that helps them build trust. From videos, audio podcasting, social media: all of that stuff is there, too," Cook said. "But most important to me is when you have a critical incident, especially if there's a high-level controversy, you know getting in front of things."

Cook says even if it's a bad situation when the facts are presented in a way where the public can see what's happening and when police are forthcoming in answering the hard questions, trust in that department goes up. He says police everywhere have to learn to work with the media to share their message.

North Texas police chief’s book seeks to fix ‘damaging’ communication stra

When an Arlington police officer accidentally shot and killed a woman while aiming at her dog during a welfare check in 2019, then Deputy Chief Christopher Cook advised his superior to not wait to release the body cam footage.

“When I looked at that situation, we knew there was going to be a lot of questions, we knew there’d be a heightened level of controversy,” said Cook. So they released the video “lightning fast.” Within 24 hours, they had consulted all stakeholders and put the officer’s body cam footage out for the public to view. And the footage did not look good. The shooting led to the officer’s resignation, and the family of the woman later sued the city of Arlington. But the department did the right thing by being up front with the family and the public as quickly as possible, Cook said.

“Building trust, maintaining trust is more important when you are transparent and you talk about incidents that occur,” said Cook, now the police chief in White Settlement. “And you can leave the community with the caveat that, hey, we don’t know all the facts yet.” On Wednesday, Cook published “The Art of Strategic Communication,” his latest endeavor to improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the media that cover them. “Leaders, executives, and public information officers must be dialed into principles that relate to transparency, trust and accountability,” Cook said in a press release announcing the book. “Too often, I hear from news media that an agency refuses to provide information or even reply or acknowledge an inquiry. Offering no comments, ignoring requests, or refusing to work with the media is not the way forward, and so this book project seeks to change these harmful mindsets that are damaging to community trust and our policing profession.”

Its publication happens to come at a time when the relationship between law enforcement and the public is being tested in Tarrant County, as the media, citizens and the family of a man who died in the county jail in April call for transparency from the sheriff’s office with regard to his and other recent deaths at the jail. The department has denied the Star-Telegram’s request for video of the in-custody death of Anthony Johnson Jr., citing its role in an ongoing criminal investigation. With new copies of his book sitting on his desk just behind him in his office on Friday, Cook stressed that he was in no position to offer critiques on the sheriff office’s communication strategy in the case of Johnson’s death. “I know that Sheriff [Bill] Waybourn loves his county and loves his agency, and I trust that Sheriff Waybourn will get to the bottom of what happened in this incident,” Cook said. “Bill’s always been a guy that takes responsibility for his commands.” Cook’s publisher set the date of the book’s release long before the events in the county jail occurred in April, but he’s a big believer in things happening for a reason. “There’s no better time in our profession — take Tarrant County out of it — where we can get good best practices in the hands of leaders,” he said. He called the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago a “turning point” in how police departments have to view their relationships with the media and the public, especially after events in which the police don’t have the “high ground.” He was inspired to write the book following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. Johnson’s family has not been shown the video, and aside from a meeting with members of the sheriff’s office three days after his death in which all they were told was that it was under investigation, they have not received further details. Members of Johnson’s family demanded answers from the county commissioners on Tuesday, as did several Tarrant County residents who spoke in public comments. Waybourn did not attend Tuesday’s Commissioners Court session. A spokesperson for the office cited the ongoing investigation as the reason he was not present. No sheriff’s office representatives were at Tuesday’s session. Speaking with the Star-Telegram on Friday, Johnson’s mother Jacqualyne Johnson pointed to another law enforcement killing in Florida that recently made national news, noting how quickly the officer’s body cam footage was released. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office took a week to release the footage of a deputy sheriff shooting and killing a U.S. airman. “They already have everything out in public, but we still don’t know anything,” she said. “It’s very interesting.” Johnson, 31, was the second inmate to die in the Tarrant County jail in April. His death came less than a week after 42-year-old Roderick Johnson (no relation) was found dead in his cell. County Administrator Chandler Merritt gave a briefing of their deaths at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court session. It consisted of reading the sheriff’s office’s press releases that were issued after each death and a comparison of raw numbers of jail death counts in other Texas counties. Precinct 4 County Commissioner Manny Ramirez said in a statement Thursday that the county is “not doing enough to share information with the public,” and said he will propose a plan to address “deficiencies” in how the sheriff’s office communicates with the public about events like these. “The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office needs more transparent, structured, and consistent communication policies for handling critical incident reporting and releasing video,” Ramirez said. Cook’s recommendation for all law enforcement agencies dealing with events that may put them in unflattering light is to not shy away from the situation. “Facts are facts,” he said. “Not talking about it doesn’t stop the story.”

Read more at:

Police Chief Christopher Cook: Six Critical Communication Goals For Police Depar

FORT WORTH, Texas, May 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Because we no longer live in a world of localized news coverage, few positions within a police department are as vital to community relations success as the strategic communications advisor known as the public information officer. Unfortunately, many police department reputations have been ruined by underestimating the importance of community engagement.

Chief of Police Christopher Cook, author of The Art of Strategic Communication, A Police Chief's Guide to Mastering Sound Bites, Storytelling and Community Engagement (2024, Indie Books International), shares his expert advice on the crucial role of a strategic communications advisor in a police department.

"You can look across the country and see the failures that affected police chiefs' careers," says Cook. "The importance of dealing with the media and engaging with community stakeholders was often miscalculated. A well-trained public information officer and law enforcement leader can influence public outcomes through proven strategies."

Cook is the Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety for the City of White Settlement, Texas, where he oversees the police and fire departments, and the office of emergency management. With over 30 years of experience in law enforcement and public safety, he is an expert in media relations, homeland security, crime prevention, and critical incident management. He is also pursuing a doctorate in Criminal Justice from Tarleton State University.

Cook joined White Settlement in April 2022, after serving as a Deputy Police Chief for the Arlington Police Department, the seventh largest city in Texas and the 48th largest city in the U.S. He was responsible for the technical services division, which included the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

According to Cook, the position of strategic advisor requires an unusually broad but somewhat specific skill set. He notes that creativity, social media savvy, and social soft skills are important attributes to consider when looking for someone to take on the role.

A startling statistic provided by the U.S. Literacy Project Foundation is that the average reading level in America is equivalent to the seventh or eighth grade. Therefore, the strategic communications advisor must be able to write and edit accordingly because readability can relate to message penetration and how the audience consumes the messages.

Cook emphasizes that the best strategic communications advisors and leaders can tap into a network of professionals and work together for the greater good of the policing profession. A right-fit person is someone who meshes well with not only the chief of police but also the rest of the police force and key figures in the media and political community.

Cook says the chief of police must ensure the individual works well with their leadership style and is aligned with their goal of presenting strategic messaging in the following six ways:

Push The Best Possible Message. Having a central person or office filter the flow of live events can prevent mixed messaging from reaching the various media organizations. This requires obtaining factually based information in a timely manner.

Reach Various Audiences. The range of audiences is much larger than might be suspected. In addition to the news media, there is the pro-police crowd, everyday citizens, anti-law enforcement, haters, trolls, police employees, neighboring law enforcement agencies, elected officials, retirees, and families of former employees, who will all have their own biases when hearing a communication.

Use The Right Channels. Traditional media, such as new channels and newspapers, have been expanded to include social media, YouTube, and podcasts since the 1990s.

Make The Message Easily Understandable. Because a variety of groups may hear the message at any one time, it's best to reduce it to an easily understood soundbite that can be intertwined with visual and audio storytelling.

Be Timely And Responsive. Best practices suggest providing basic information as quickly and efficiently as possible to answer questions the community would legitimately be interested in. Learn everything about the scene, players involved, location history, prior criminal history, contraband, weapons and other pertinent information.

Ensure The Message Reflects Your Organizational Values, Mission, and Vision. Always ensure transparency with communications and the media.

"We must commit to learning, partnering with peers, attending leadership conferences, and investing in tools and strategies that work in order to train our strategic advisors rather than assuming that effective communication will occur naturally," says Cook.

Cook stresses the ability to think strategically is the most important characteristic to develop. When asked what to look for in a candidate, He states, "Leaders and communicators must embrace a way of receiving information, assessing it, formulating a plan, executing the strategy and evaluating their effectiveness."

Paperback Book Details
  • 04/2024
  • 9781957651705
  • 302 pages
  • $20.00