Bimbo Banter

Setting the Stage: The First Comment

  • Crisis
  • May 3, 2017
  • by Merrie Spaeth

Setting the stage, or more accurately, setting expectations is imperative in crisis management. The initial findings are rarely confirmed and your spokesperson should choose a response that implies the process is fluid. We call this the first comment and it should always be couched with caveats that information may change.

Our latest illustration comes from an incident that occurred this week in a Dallas suburb.  

A police officer shot and killed Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old who was leaving a party with friends. He was called to the scene to investigate a report of underage drinking.  Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber initially said that the teenager’s car was backing up aggressively at the police officers on the scene, positioning the officers as firing in self-defense.

Hours later, after reviewing the body-cam video footage, Chief Haber reversed his statement and reported that the car was driving away from the officers. This left the impression that Haber had rushed to the officers’ defense and was covering up or downplaying the incident. To further prove that fluid situations like this evolve, Chief Haber fired the officer accused of the shooting on Tuesday.

Haber’s first words should have been, “Before providing any kind of speculation based on initial reports, we owe it to the citizens to carefully review the video from the officers’ body cameras, interview all concerned and then report fully.”

We add our condolences to Jordan’s family who are understandably devastated. 

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