Crisis Leadership & Communications in a Complex, Headline-Driven World

Crisis Leadership & Communications in a Complex, Headline-Driven World
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-09-30
Unit 1Recording: Crisis Leadership & Communications in a Complex, Headline-Driven World
Unit 2Transcript - Crisis Leadership and Communications
Unit 3Workbook - Crisis Leadership and Communications

Incidents of civil unrest have been materializing in different parts of the US. The issue itself is complex and unfortunately, it is the law enforcement agencies that are bearing the brunt of these. This session brings a group of law enforcement leaders together who handled such incidents, sharing their experience, best practices, and lessons learned to better prepare other agencies when they are faced with the unexpected.

This panel is made up of:

  • Mark Pfeifle, National Sheriffs’ Association Senior Advisor for Marketing, Strategy, and Communications
  • David Hutchinson, Sheriff of Hennepin County, Minnesota
  • James Stuart, Sheriff of Anoka County, Minnesota
  • Clifford Pinkney, Retired Sheriff of Cuyahoga County, Ohio
  • David Beth, Sheriff of Kenosha County, Wisconsin
  • Jonathan Thompson, Director of the NSA

They shared the experiences each of their jurisdictions had handling civil unrest following the George Floyd, Tamir Rice, and Jacob Blake incidents. Some of the points highlighted are:

  • A blow-by-blow timeline of what happened from the trigger incident, the gathering of protesters, the riots that ensued, the response from local agencies, and the support from outside resources.
  • A detailed recounting of the manpower, logistics and equipment involved in containing the protesters, protecting infrastructures, and securing officers involved.
  • The issues and challenges they encountered with the unexpected event, initially uncoordinated mission, insufficient training, and inadequate staffing for street response and booking of arrestees in the jail.
  • Juggling support roles particularly for Anoka County Sheriff’s Office that assisted Hennepin County while keeping the peace that is also being compromised at home.
  • The changes they put into effect in terms of staffing, roles, transportation, and communication to compensate with the reallocation of resources and coordination across different channels.
  • The lessons they learned that stress the importance of:
    • Measures in terms of intelligence and rules of engagement.
    • Planning and preparation of equipment, vehicles, capabilities, and manpower.
    • Establishing relationships with the community so they may contribute their skills and knowledge to extend help in such situations.
    • Keeping the family of those involved in these cases informed and updated about how the case will be handled.
    • Partnerships with neighboring, state, and federal agencies for manpower, equipment and resources and defining roles when working collaboratively.
    • Providing dedicated channels for specific functions/units and securing communication channels to avoid rioters from monitoring it.
    • Reinforcing government building security and considering remote command posts.
    • Ensuring the workforce gets to rest, eat, and sleep amidst the high-stress circumstance to avoid burnout.
    • Controlling the narrative and preparing for bad publicity and false stories coming from the press and social media.
    • Recognizing that such incidents transpire where and when it’s least expected and prepare for it.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Developing rules of engagement for these incidents.
  • Recruiting college interns for social media intelligence.
  • The role of the Public Information Officer in these situations.






The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) is one of the largest associations of law enforcement professionals in the United States, representing more than 3,000 elected sheriffs across the nation, and a total membership of more than 20,000. NSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of professionalism among sheriffs, their deputies, and others in the field of criminal justice and public safety. Throughout its seventy-seven year history, NSA has served as an information clearinghouse for sheriffs, deputies, chiefs of police, other law enforcement professionals, state governments and the federal government.




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