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  • Writer's pictureCarrie LeZotte

Breaking Through: A Guide for Impactful Police Marketing

The following marketing strategy was written as a grant application for the Department of Justice program to support Recruitment, Retention, and Workforce Diversification in policing. While the application was unsuccessful (losing to the International Association of Chiefs of Police) the ideas have served as a roadmap for community policing communication strategy in Bloomfield Township. While the grant would have provided funding for national reach and immediate production, we continue to chip away at the plan, like eating an elephant.


Problem Identification and Project Description

Inspired by the successful recruiting campaign produced by Bloomfield Township in 2023, twelve short training-themed videos will be supported by a 24-episode podcast series that will cover best practices related to recruiting and diversification in today’s competitive environment. Additionally, a digital toolkit will explain how-to easily customize the videos, provide storytelling ideas and a step-by-step guide on running low-cost digital ads. Designed as a companion to Discover Policing, the COPS website that serves as an introduction to a police career, Breaking Through will be a marketing tool-kit that will help police tell their story through customizable short videos that highlight the training officers receive during their professional career. Focused on small and medium-sized agencies, the ideas can be scaled up for larger agencies.


“Perhaps the greatest task facing the police community is to tell the police story,” reads the COPS recruiting toolkit from 2009. It continues, “Police leaders must develop and implement a plan to communicate an honest portrayal of police work directly with the American people.”(1) This proposed project will help tell this story. One thing police leaders can agree on in today’s policing environment, officers need to be trained in a diverse set of skills in order to preform the job at a professional level. The Bloomfield Township Police Department has an outstanding reputation for the training it provides its officers and this project will be let by those standards of excellence.


Training varies by agency, and the video assets created will allow for local personalization. The videos will be produced in a way that is like “donut” advertising used in car commercials, where the middle is standard, and the beginning and end are custom to a local dealership. Agencies will be able to modify the videos for their own use, as explained in the marketing toolkit. This marketing toolkit will go beyond telling agencies that their “recruitment videos, webpages, social media and brochures must reflect the philosophy and values of the agency and provide a realistic view of what police work involves,”(2) The toolkit will provide detailed plans, questions and resources to help create those materials. The supporting conversational podcasts with experienced leaders will support these efforts.


The twelve planned modules are built around the variety of training that a police officer receives during their career. The Felony Arrest with BTPD Midnight Platoon (3) video, created to support recruiting efforts, earned more than 10,000 organic views in its first month’s release on YouTube. The creative direction in this video produced an arrest scenario with sworn officers as the on-camera talent, who then describe the training in a voice-over. This creative can both inspire people to service and educate a wider audience, informing both groups about the ongoing training an officer receives during his or her career. Overarching requirements for today’s policing like emotional intelligence, diversity and ethical decision-making thread throughout the series.


While not training videos themselves, the series will highlight the wide range of skills and expertise related to the job duties of an officer, including observation, self-defense, mental and physical health, investigations, and legal procedures, all components designed to help officers perform their job duties safely, effectively and with integrity.


Suggestions for local modification would be included in the marketing toolkit. The series would include these twelve topics:

  • FTO (Field Training Officer), how a new officer is paired with a veteran officer who observes and mentors them through their initial training period, which typically lasts several months

  • Patrol – how officers learn to observe their environment carefully, using all their senses and intuition, and how to distinguish suspicious activity from harmless behavior

  • Defensive tactics; preparing officers to defend themselves and others using a variety of physical techniques, including strikes, holds and grappling

  • Use of force – related to firearms training, when it’s appropriate to use deadly force

  • Implicit bias – training officers to recognize and overcome their own biases and avoid unfair treatment of people based on race, gender or other characteristics

  • Active assailant reality-based training, how to respond to an active shooter or other life-threatening situations.

  • Drunk driving; recognize the signs of alcohol or drug impairment and how to administer field sobriety tests

  • Officer wellness – techniques for maintaining good mental, physical and emotional health in a stressful and demanding job

  • Investigations and Computer technology – learning how to conduct investigations in the digital era, including data retrieval and analysis, cybercrime, and computer forensics

  • Physical evidence - how to recognize, document, and collect physical evidence from crime scenes, including fingerprints, DNA, and trace evidence

  • Search and seizure – how to conduct traffic stops and searches in a way that is safe, legal, and respectful, emphasizing the importance of clear communication and explaining the legal requirements for searches and seizures

  • Overview of all the training – through the lens of leadership development, covering topics such as decision-making, communication, conflict resolution, and team building

The videos will be written by LeZotte with input and direction from Edwards and Pizuitt. Officers from Bloomfield Township will participate as on-camera talent with the support of additional local agencies as needed.


Discussion topics for the podcast episodes under the umbrella of hiring practices, training, diversification and retention efforts include;

  1. Recruitment strategies and challenges

  2. Background check procedures

  3. Social media best practices

  4. Physical and mental fitness testing

  5. Application of new technological resources

  6. Retention tactics and strategies

  7. FTO program and attributes of a successful field-training officer

  8. Development of opportunities for promotion within the department

  9. Peer mentorship programs, benefits of mentorship programs

  10. Career advancement opportunities

  11. Performance measuring practices

  12. Implicit Bias and Cultural Diversity training

  13. Deescalation techniques

  14. Psychological impact of law enforcement

  15. Use of technology in policing

  16. Interaction between patrol and investigations

  17. Detective and investigative practices

  18. Psychological and behavioral counseling

  19. Occupational hazards and mental and emotional stressors

  20. Crisis intervention team training

  21. Legal framework and constraints on use of force

  22. Implementation and structure of mentoring programs

  23. Personal defense perception

  24. Reality-based simulation training


The marketing tool-kit will fill in some of the gaps in COPS toolkits that are currently available. These resources would include;

  • Specific low-cost equipment to use with phone-cameras to record good audio

  • Basic video production techniques for local video content

  • Step-by-step guide to mixing local video/audio with Breaking Through content

  • List of questions to ask to support each module

  • Social media calendar to follow

  • How to place ads on social media platforms

  • Tips & tricks for police-specific social media performance including hashtags


Project Reach and Impact

There are three target audiences for this project, police recruits, current officers and the public. “Professional organizations continue to report staffing challenges among agencies nationwide, identifying a multi-year crisis derived from the combined impact of increased officer departures and retirements as well a reduction of applicants.” While researchers continue to debate the impact mass media has on hindering job interest of those considering a policing career, “empirical works have found negative media involving police and police actions to have a psychosociological effects on officers, which can extend past an incident’s area of origin thanks to the prevalence of social media and rapid information sharing.” There certainly is no debating that “recruits are exposed to an increasingly negative narrative of their chosen profession compared to prior cohorts, in part due to the prevalence of information sharing on multiple media platforms,”(4) This campaign will raise moral and help educate the public about what it takes to be a police officer today while focusing on the high level of training in professional policing.


In 2015, The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing was convened to address deteriorated community trust in the police and identify best practices in policing. As one the pillars of change, the task force recognized training and education as a mechanism through which policing could move away from “warrior-style” and toward “guardian-style” policing. Specific trainings were recommended for pre-service academy-based training, including bias awareness, scenario based situational decision making, mental health issues and technology. (5) This training is needed for current officers as part of their ongoing professional development and the communities they serve need to be made aware that this work is taking place. The third pillar from the task force focused on Technology and Social Media and states “transparency and accessibility for the community through technology”(6) as one of the bullet points. The Breaking Through marketing toolkit will help address this communication need and help agencies move from recommendations to action. “The power of online connectivity simply cannot be achieved in any other environment.” (7) This project will provide the COPS community with the tactics to help tell their stories.


According to the COPS Discovery Policy Agency search, there are 8122 police agencies with 11 – 200 officers.(8) These small and medium-sized agencies that are not likely to have internal media resources would benefit the most from the Breaking Through toolkit.


Experience and Capacity

Carrie LeZotte will serve as the project manager for this effort. As Director of Cable and Community Relations for Bloomfield Township, she oversees the production for more than 700 annual cable-access programs, and she directed the video recruiting campaign for the BTPD. Prior to working at the Township, she has produced and directed similar short-form video series work. She will rely on the police expertise of Captain Dan Edwards, a thirty-one-year department veteran who has overseen recruitment and launched training programs throughout his career, and Lt. Bryan Pizzuiti, who currently oversees all training for Bloomfield Township.


Dan Edwards, Bloomfield Township Administrative Captain

Even with a storied career behind him, Captain Dan Edwards is constantly looking forward as he mentors fellow officers, supports leadership opportunities for the next generation, and continues to set the example for life-long learning and development. He sees every day as a new challenge to strive for better, for the department he works for and the residents he serves. Breaking Through is a unique opportunity for law enforcement, on a national scale, to benefit from his insight and guidance. As Administrative Captain for the Bloomfield Township Police Department, his duties include oversight of hiring and training and more importantly, the development of modern recruitment systems. He understands the role of diversity and representation, stating “in law enforcement, we need to be representative of our communities, because we are a part of the community, and we have to maintain that relationship.” He continued, “we need to now focus more on teaching our officers to balance officer safety with being kind and respectful in the way you treat people…you need to make sure you humanize every incident and every person that you have contact with.”(9)


In 2023, when tasked with the responsibly of hiring eleven officers for the department, Edwards built out the recruiting team, assigned individual officers to police academy visits, and checked off another recommendation made by the COPS Law Enforcment Recruitment Toolkit, he asked the director of the public-access television channel for help in telling the story of the agency.(10) This partnership paid off.


One of the resulting recruits was asked at the end of the interview why he wanted to work for Bloomfield Township, “He said that he searched the internet for our agency and found a bunch of videos on YouTube and Facebook. He said he liked what he saw in the videos, our professionalism, and our family atmosphere. He added that after he applied he was put in contact with a recruiter. He was brought in for a ride-along and provided him with everything he needed to know about the organization. He now wants to be a part of our team and will be given a job offer in the days to come. I think this is a perfect example that all the efforts the recruiting team has been putting in are making a real difference in the marketing of our department,” wrote Edwards in an email to the recruiting team.


While the City of Charleston Police Department created a successful video campaign using evidenced-based policing research, that process took three years.(11) Edwards didn’t have that time to figure it out. He needed a campaign launched in three months. Luckily, the right person to help had recently joined the Township.


Carrie LeZotte, Director, Cable and Community Relations, Bloomfield Township

LeZotte had a much different idea for a police recruitment video, one that would have told a complete story about the BTPD, but would have taken months to gather all the required footage. After the initial meeting with the recruiting team, it was clear that something exciting was required and the felony arrest scenario was put in motion. Supported by individual profiles of officers and a new podcast from the Chief, the campaign is reaching recruits who are the right fit for the department. The felony arrest video is a unique combination of the police training and officer expertise and has taken off it its organic views.


In her current role for Bloomfield Township, LeZotte manages government and community production for Bloomfield Township and five surrounding communities, producing more than 700 programs annually. Under her leadership, she doubled the production space in the studio facility by creating a podcast studio and brought her storytelling and research capabilities to support the hiring initiative for the police department.


Prior to joining Bloomfield Township, she executive produced and directed hundreds of hours of award-winning video content in her twenty-five-year career. Highlights include a series of short-form videos for the Early Childhood Investment Corporation for the State of Michigan that demonstrated parenting tips related to early childhood development and were broadcast on Detroit Public Television. She began her directing career by producing an educational film about acquaintance rape and later partnered with HAVEN of Oakland County to create video content related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and an award-winning animation to teach young children about safe touch, for which her production company was recognized with the Voice of Victims Award in 2010.


Most significantly, she spearheaded the production of Lean, Mean & Green, working with author and journalist John Gallagher to produce a film inspired by his book, Reimagining Detroit. The film expanded on ideas that were working internationally to reimagine what postindustrial cities around the world could become. At the time, Detroit was going through bankruptcy and the world was telling a much different story about where the city was headed. A little more than a decade later, in 2023, Detroit was one of two US cities to make the top ten travel destinations in the world(12). Lean, Mean & Green was followed by a series of commissioned short-form videos that looked at what was working in Detroit schools, which went on to win a regional Emmy award.


LeZotte’s optimism, her vision for educational and emotional video campaigns, and her effort to highlight what is working, make her the perfect person to lead marketing efforts for today’s policing environment. To support Bloomfield Township’s hiring initiative, she produced a communication plan that included a series of nine videos, highlighting individual officers, an overall look at the department culture, and an overview of a felony arrest. The felony-arrest video showcases the training and expertise of the BTPD and having received more than 10,000 organic views on YouTube in its first month of release, serves as inspiration for the Breaking Through project. Her plan included press releases about the department for traditional media, but the primary focus was for the Township to control the story. ENews stories were delivered electronically to residents, distributed in the printed newsletter, and targeted Facebook ads helped find the candidates the department was looking for.


Working in concert with the Township’s Community Liaison Officer, LeZotte focused her communications priorities on telling the police story. “Generally speaking, the community actually trusts the police more than the media,”(13) Police agencies controlling the police story is what’s needed today to attract diverse talent to the profession, bolster current officers and educate communities on how to be supportive partners.


Bryan Pizzuti, Lieutenant and training supervisor, Bloomfield Township

In following national police cases through to the trial stage, Lt. Bryan Pizzuti knows that an officer’s training can determine the outcome of a case. He has dedicated his life to intelligent, compassionate and professional police training and is prepared to use video to help amplify the work he has already been doing for a national audience. He represents the essence of ideal modern-day law enforcement, using his training as a guide and enhancing it with experience and understanding. Most importantly, Lt. Pizzuti embraces his role as an instructor, guiding all he encounters from theory to practice to self-realization with patience and vigilance.


In a career that has spanned over two decades, Lt. Pizzuti has amassed an impressive resume brimming with diverse opportunities and knowledge gained. As a patrol officer, he embraced the day-to-day to aspects of his tour and exemplified public service. He’s described the scope of that early experience by saying, “it can be something as simple as changing a flat tire for someone on the side of the road to solving a homicide.” Later on, he worked as a Task Force Officer with the FBI Violent Gang & Violent Crimes Task Force, as well as contract instructor for Command Presence, a law enforcement training and consulting company based in Georgia. He also spends time as a facilitator for the Michigan State School of Criminal Justice First Line Supervision Course.


Pizzuti is the Lead Defensive Tactics Instructor for Bloomfield Township, specializing in the training of De-Escalation and critical decision making while employed as an Investigations Lieutenant, which entails overseeing all case investigations and managing multi-jurisdictional task forces. He takes pride in his law enforcement role for the Township and is passionate about providing training opportunities beyond the police department to include firefighters, general community audiences, youth and seniors. Everybody is looking for a quick fix. I’m only going to give them a foundation. They have to embrace and absorb the training and they have to practice it every day. It has to be a lifestyle…I don’t want people to be paranoid, I just want them to be prepared”(14).


Notes

  1. Law Enforcement Recruitment Toolkit 2009 p. 10 https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-p171-pub.pdf

  2. Police Executive Research Forum (Sept 2019)., The workforce crisis, and what police agencies are doing about it p.14 https://www.policeforum.org/assets/WorkforceCrisis.pdf

  3. Bloomfield Community Television (April 2023) Felony arrest with BTPD midnight platoon. https://youtu.be/X1mUI1ntRGg?si=0UuPjoXBZUEwY2o

  4. A. Wojslawowicz & R. Doan. (January 2023). Policing: an International Journal. Gauging the impact of negative media publicity on career decisions. p. 384-385. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-12-2022-0149

  5. J. Slone and E. Paoline. (2021) Police Quarterly. They need more training! A national level analysis of police academy basic training priorities. DOI: 10.1177/10986111231174831

  6. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. (2015) Implementation guide moving from recommendations to action. https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-p341-pub.pdf

  7. COPS (September 2011) Strategic Communications Practices; a toolkit for police executives p.37 https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-P222

  8. https://www.discoverpolicing.org/explore-the-field/search-the-agency-directory/#/

  9. CivicCenterTV (August 2020) Bloomfield Township Police Captain Talks about Use of Force and Continued Training of Local Officers https://youtu.be/xpQuud9FXPI

  10. Law Enforcement Recruitment Toolkit 2009 p. 12 https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-p171-pub.pdf

  11. COPS Dispatch (December 2021). Evidence-based policing: a foundation for strategic recruitment https://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/12-2021/evidence_based_policing.html

  12. https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2022/11/15/detroit-named-among-top-10-best-travel-destinationsin-the-world-for-2023

  13. COPS (September 2011) Strategic Communications Practices; a toolkit for police executives p.28 https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-P222

  14. Downtown Magazine (Feb 2023) Bryan Pizzuti, https://www.downtownpublications.com/single-post/bryan-pizzuti

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