Crisis Communications During the Aurora Movie Theater Shooting

Crisis Communications During the Aurora Movie Theater Shooting
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded October 26, 2017
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Crisis Communications
Unit 2 Recording: Crisis Communications
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A few weeks ago, we went through the detailed timeline of the Century 16 Theatre Shooting in Aurora Colorado. Lieutenant Stephen Redfearn of the Aurora PD recounted the events as a first responder to the horrible incident that claimed the lives of 12 individuals and injured 58 more.

On this webinar, we will go through the incident from the point of view of Sergeant Cassidee Carlson, the Public Information Officer of the Aurora Police Department at that time. Sergeant Carlson’s experience goes all the way back to 2003, she’s been Aurora PD’s Public Information Officer from 2010 to 2014 where she’s handled various critical situations as shootings, kidnappings, and homicides. Her extensive experience trainings in different fields including media relations, leadership, and police tactics were put to the test when the Aurora Shooting of July 2012 transpired.

Cassidee went through the events in a chronological manner describing how the Aurora PD Public Information Office handled the dissemination of information to the public as well as the media. She also shares best practices and identifies areas for improvement – all necessary information to have knowledge of in crisis situations.


Points that Cassidee included in the webinar presentation are:

  • Aurora’s statistics prior the incident in terms of population and violent crimes.
  • The Aurora PD’s personnel, budget, and the role played by the PIO’s role to the agency.
  • The PIO’s resources and active social media channels during the time of the event and how they were being utilized.
  • The composition of media outlets available within the area of Aurora-Denver area.
  • How the first few hours of the incident went and how the PIO was informed of the shooting.
  • The barrage of calls that the office started receiving from the media and the public.
  • The various factors that they considered before holding the first press briefing.
  • Managing the media during the press briefing and the message they provided roughly two hours after the theatre shooting.
  • The details they provided in the initial press release, and how they monitored inquiries and leads coming from the media and the public via the phone lines
  • The different agencies and individuals that provided them assistance during and after the event.
  • How they coordinated the next few press briefings that followed by not allowing individual interviews, and how they maximized social media to provide the public with the information and shut down false stories from circulating.
  • Getting in touch with victims, their loved ones, assigning victim advocates and notifying the official list of deceased.
  • Dealing with explosives that the suspect set up in his residence, and again, briefing the media about this.
  • Different tactics that the media employed to get exclusive scoop on the incident.
  • Dealing with VIPs visiting to check on the crime scene and the victims and their families.
  • Lessons learned that involve making technology work to your advantage, and a recommended technique to lessen coordination with national media outlets.
  • Why it is critical to have one person serving as the voice of the agency, running the social media channels.
  • The importance of transparency, keeping the public updated, and using social media to provide accurate information.
  • Pre-planning that agencies can conduct involving relationship building, training, equipment tests and maintenance, and constant vigilance.
  • Other things to consider like flood of assistance from different sectors, case management, and record keeping, and self-care programs for employees
  • Questions raised by attendees include the PIO’s decision-making, simulation trainings, and public relations training for personnel who face media.
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