How many times do we see leaders of organizations hide behind the lines “it’s under investigation” and “we can’t talk about it because of the pending litigation” when an organization is under fire over something that may be controversial? Even when a the person in charge truly believes in a decision they themselves have made or supports an action taken by a subordinate, they remain silent or run from the news media or any questions. We see it in public safety all of the time.
And then there is Chief Terry Rozema of Arizona’s Marana Police Department. Watch his interview below on CNN defending a decision by one of his officers to run down a man who had been on a one man crime spree and was armed with a rifle that he had fired as he was walking down the street toward a commercial area.
Anyone who has been in my classes on media relations knows I strongly believe that you look foolish defending the indefensible. When someone has done wrong, get the bad news out, deal with it and then work quickly to repair the damage.
But I also strongly believe that when you honestly and objectively don’t believe you’ve done wrong and that you have a legitimate position to defend, do so. You usually don’t help yourself by staying silent and avoiding talking about the incident or the decision. Chief Rozema seems to understand that concept extremely well.
The police department released the video of the February incident yesterday (Tuesday) and the chief gracefully defended the actions taken by his officer, even in the face of the suspect’s lawyer claiming excessive force.
Look at some of the quotes below from Chief Rozema taken from various interviews yesterday. He doesn’t attack those who disagree with his view on this incident. The chief not only embraces them but bluntly acknowledges that yes this is a difficult video to watch. The chief clearly and calmly makes the point that in the end the officer not only kept others out of harm’s way, he may have very well saved the life of the suspect. Great job.
The words of Chief Terry Rozema, Marana Police Department:
“Certainly there’s going to be a number of people critiquing from all directions. And this profession we have to welcome that. We have to embrace that.”
“That’s not an easy decision right there, That’s a tough, tough, tough decision. But he made it.”
“First time I saw the video, I said, ‘Whoa! Holy crap!'”
“If we’re going to choose between maybe we’ll let him go a little bit farther and see what happens, or we’re going to take him out now and eliminate any opportunity he has to hurt somebody, you’re going to err on the side of, in favor of the innocent people.”
“This officer made a split-second decision, and in retrospect, when all the dust clears, I think we look at this and say, yeah, there’s things we can learn from this, but the entire community is safe, all the officers are safe, and even the suspect in this case is safe.”