Police Chief Thomas Jackson speaks during a news conference in Ferguson
The police response to the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. — which included heavily armed militarized police clashing with protesters in the St. Louis suburb — is a case study for how not to manage a crisis.
The St. Louis Police Academy seems to agree, offering a new fall course that teaches "tactics, skills and techniques that will help you WIN WITH THE MEDIA!"
According to the Oct. 24 program's description, the "highly entertaining" class will cover lessons learned from both Ferguson and Newtown:
OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING -- YOU CAN WIN WITH THE MEDIA
The shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri and the events that followed were tragic. In addition to the Ferguson case study, this fast-paced class is jam-packed with the essential strategies and tactics, skills and techniques that will help you WIN WITH THE MEDIA! It is practical training, not theoretical: Take what you learn and put it to work for you on the street right away! The training is also highly entertaining: numerous video clips illustrate key points, and there is NO PowerPoint! You will learn a lot, and you’ll have fun doing it! In addition to the detailed case study of Ferguson (including numerous practical tips for handling the media in an officer-involved shooting) topics will include:
• Meet the 900-Pound Gorilla
• DWI and the Media
• Feeding the Animals
• “No comment” is a comment
• Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid!
• Managing Media Assault and Battery
• Managing the Media When Things Get Ugly (think Ferguson)
• Managing the Media in a Crisis (including lessons learned from the Newtown, CT school shooting.)
The one-day course, led by former WGN anchor-turned-public relations consultant Rick Rosenthal, is aimed at "upper-echelon law enforcement professionals" who expect to face the media, including "top-level decision-makers," supervisors and public information officers.
The 9-hour, $75 training session is limited to 80 students.
It's unclear how many officers have signed up for the training. A spokesperson for the academy could not immediately be reached.
But it's already stirring up controversy among some critics, like activist Shaun King, who say the course is not only tone-deaf but culturally insensitive.
We are joke to them. Read that flyer. This is entertainment for them. Animals. Gorillas. Not even subtle.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 20, 2014
During the protests, the city of Ferguson retained a PR firm to help its communications department deal with the "large volume of media queries." But some criticized the city for hiring a firm, Common Ground, with an all-white staff.
"As a local St. Louisan who watched this tragedy unfold, I offered our assistance because it was clear that this community was overwhelmed and needed immediate help fielding media inquiries," Denise Bentele, Common Ground's president, wrote in response to those critics. "The color of our skin reflected nothing of our concern to help our broader community respond to the watchful world."