The New Orleans Police Department is looking for a new official spokesperson. This Thursday marks the deadline for submitting an application, and the NOPD will hire someone by the end of the month. We spoke with the New Orleans Advocate’s police reporter Danny Monteverde about who the police department is looking for to fill the position.
Danny Monteverde: It’s a high profile position, not necessarily always to the public but to the media. It’s kind of a clearinghouse position where, when a major event happens — whether it be something at city hall or the police department, fire department — you have a known person to go to and an authoritative person as well, who’s expected to be able to give you some very solid and detailed information as well that you can put a name to as well. It’s a quick way to get someone to get verified information to be able to present news to your audience.
Laine Kaplan-Levenson: Remi Braden, who was the last communications person for the NOPD, she left in April, I think?
DM: Yeah late March, early April, somewhere around that time.
LKL: So why has it taken so long to fill?
DM: It could just be the wheels of bureaucracy don’t always move that fast. In the meantime city hall has stepped in for major instances, for instance during Bourbon Street shooting there was no real official NOPD communications office commander so the mayor’s spokesperson would step in and fill that role.
LKL: What stood out to you about this RFP, and what do you think they are looking for in this new person to fill this role?
DM: It looks like they are looking for someone who’s got that experience dealing with the media. The most interesting thing I saw was that they’re looking for someone to work on social media. That’s new, the NOPD doesn’t really have any real social media presences. There are some police departments — Baltimore is one that comes to mind — where they have a pretty active social media presence; and the NOPD, they’ve got a Facebook page but its not anything all that impressive. So that’s interesting that they’re looking for someone to get more hands on with social media.
Another interesting aspect is it says they’re looking for someone who will be proactive in delivering the department’s message and rebuilding the NOPD’s brand and brand’ s negative reputation. So those were two sort of interesting aspects of the request for proposals.
LKL: How does a police department use something like Twitter and use something, even if it’s Instagram, how are they incorporating these social media platforms into their communications?
DM: Well things I’ve noticed, like Baltimore’s a good example — they’ll tweet out something like "We’re working a shooting at this location, you might want to stay away.” Right now the NOPD, the only way you’re going to get information is through the media, and to their credit they have gotten better about sending out information. They will send out emails, but it’s limited to the media: the Advocate, Nola.com, the TV stations, the radio stations. They’ll tell the four major radio stations and Nola.com, and then its up to media to get it out as quickly as we can or as quickly as we see fit.
You know people drive around or are on their porches and they see blue flashing lights and they want to know what’s going on. And again, it’s just another outlet for the public to be informed if the police department is going to start taking this step, which it seems they are interested in doing with this new spokesperson.
LKL: It will be really interesting to see how quickly they’ll gain these followers, like how many people are going to follow the NOPD the day they get a Twitter handle, you know?
DM: I’m curious about that too, and it’s something I’d like to look more into at some point. You know in this city, I think streets and crimes are the two biggest issues people are facing, so if it’s any indication we can always take a look at the Fix My Streets Twitter and that got a pretty large following pretty quickly. So I would imagine that if NOPD or any of the law enforcement agencies in the metro area ever go ahead and get a social media presence going it would probably take off pretty quickly, and I’ll be pretty curious to see what they do.
The application process closes Thursday, Aug. 7. The NOPD plans to meet on August 15 to discuss the pool of applicants, and will announce the new spokesperson around August 18.
Produced by Jesse Hardman