The recent shooting in Kentucky was the 11th of the year, and the worst so far. This statistic is difficult to wrap our heads around as it is only 25 days into the year. At the rate that such incidents are occurring, it is only fitting to pre-plan and take action so law enforcement agencies are prepared if it, unfortunately, happens in their jurisdiction.
A few months back, Sergeant Cassidee Carlson of the Aurora PD presented the timeline and shared her experience as the Public Information Officer during one of the most horrible shooting to happen in US history – the Century 16 Shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Sergeant Carlson's experience as a PIO who have handled various critical situations and her training in different law enforcement and communications areas were tested in this incident. Lessons were learned and areas for improvement were identified in that webinar to help other agencies who might find themselves in a similar situation.
Sergeant Carlson of the Aurora PD is back at the Justice Clearinghouse Webinar, and this time around, she will deep-dive into the Family PIO Liaison Program. Her office implemented this to assist the victims' families who are grieving a loss, yet they are being bombarded by unnecessary noise from different directions. The Family PIO Liaison program's objective is to ensure that they would be given the space to grieve without having to deal with the frenzy surrounding a very controversial case.
Topics that were covered in this webinar include:
- A brief timeline of the events surrounding the shooting from the Public Information Office perspective.
- The barrage of duties and responsibilities that the PIO faced shortly after the incident and in the following days.
- How a comment from the Communications Director referring to the Columbine shooting became the precedent for conceptualizing the PIO Family Liaison Program.
- The stakeholders who were consulted prior and involved in setting up the program.
- The role played by the Emergency Services Public Information Officers of Colorado (ESPIOC) in rolling out the program.
- How initial planning, call for volunteers, and the defining of the roles were done.
- The nitty-gritty involved in the logistics of matching up PIO volunteers with the families; setting up the communication channels; and the PIO-Victim Advocate buddy system.
- Implementing the system as a program that the deceased victims' families can opt into with goals of helping them deal with their loss and the process of grieving, as well as the public clamor for information through the media.
- How a bespoke email address was utilized to centralize questions and requests to the families, and provided updated information to the media.
- The responsibilities and the role of the Family PIO Liaison.
- The success, lessons learned, and program considerations.
- How other agencies and organizations can prepare if a similar critical situation happens within their jurisdiction.
Questions raised by the attendees on the Q&A section include:
- Challenges in the command structure given the various federal and local agencies involved.
- The importance of providing options to the families to take part in the program.
- The role played by the PIOs during media interviews.
- The level of coordination between the program stakeholders.
- The PIOs who were chosen to take on the role of the Family PIO Liaison.
- The practicality of assigning PIO Liaisons to injured victims.