In light of the chaotic situation at Ferguson, MO, we have to get serious in considering what a local police force is about. “Preserving peace and order,” used to be the instinctive answer. Yet, in virtually any human activity, trappings make a difference. And at Ferguson, the appearance of police officers suited up as though they were military attack squads raises misgivings.
The police have sometimes difficult, occasionally threatening, and always somewhat unpredictable jobs. They do great and important work, and they knew it would be challenging when they signed on as recruits. But they’re still local police, community employees, not military occupiers, and why would they want to create an impression of being something they’re not? Especially when, as in Ferguson, it’s apt to be a provocative one.
Human communication occurs instinctively, but it doesn’t always occur instinctively well. Far from it. Communication shouldn’t be considered an impromptu trait. In moments of stress, or in organizational settings (not that organizations need be stressful), communication can, and often does, go awry.
Rather than an impromptu exchange, communication needs to be well-considered. Fairness, indeed, requires that.
Turns out, I’ve had an abiding interest in fairness since boyhood. Don’t know why, but at least since I had my paper route all those years ago, I wanted to be a reporter so I could go out, get people’s stories and tell them accurately.
That’s what I did for 20 years, principally on the late, lamented Philadelphia Bulletin. But then, in 1979, the accident at Three Mile Island Unit 2 occurred and, a couple of months later, a former colleague at The Bulletin called to advise that he’d just been named TMI’s Communications Manager, and did I want to come out to be its Media Relations Manager? He was calling on behalf of the GPU Nuclear Corp., which was being formed to apply the lessons of the Unit 2 accident on behalf of General Public Utilities, TMI’s owner/operator.