Tip #1: Recognition can be large or small.
Any community group can create meaningful recognition. For the price of a stamp, you can write a letter to the editor or a letter of commendation for noteworthy law enforcement efforts. For a little more, you can implement a simple awards dinner or luncheon.
Some States, such as Arizona, conducted large-scale recognition programs, hosting a 300-person event, which generated a tremendous amount of goodwill and media attention. In Ohio, the first lady, Hope Taft, emceed the event. However, recognition does not need to break the bank. In Georgia , MADD volunteers wrote letters to the commanders of officers who organized sobriety checkpoints in the State for placement in the officers’ personnel files. As you might guess, citizen complaints are more common than compliments, so the letters really stood out.
MADD Delaware recognized officers immediately after enforcement efforts with pizza parties for those involved in the checkpoints. This simple recognition for a job well done went over very well. MADD Virginia had previously conducted recognition events in five regions of the State; with the support they received under the cooperative agreement, they expanded their recognition program by conducting simple affairs in underserved areas of the State, to let officers know they were appreciated, even if there was not a large core of volunteers in their community. MADD Alaska hosted recognition events and also placed ads in the local newspaper to publicly acknowledge the officers who had been honored.
Tip #2: Recognize both units and officers for hard work.
Traditional law enforcement recognition efforts typically give awards to the officers who arrest the greatest number of impaired drivers. However, the primary purpose of these high-visibility enforcement efforts is not necessarily to increase the number of arrests. Rather, it is to create general deterrence in the hope of reducing the number of impaired drivers who are on the road. Therefore, it is important to recognize individual officers who work hard at generating general deterrence through high-visibility enforcement, using measures other than just arrests. In addition, it is useful to honor the agencies and law enforcement leaders who sponsor and support high-visibility enforcement events, and who inspire their officers to participate. A variety of items can be used when providing recognition. Some chapters used plaques, certificates, or badges that the officers could wear on their uniforms. Others provided financial support for training or law enforcement equipment, such as video cameras, passive alcohol sensors, or preliminary breath testers. The advantage of providing training or equipment is that they can help enhance future enforcement efforts. For example, MADD New York provided Alco-sensors to agencies that turned in reports, as well as recognizing “Top Cops.” Similarly, by rewarding both agencies and officers, MADD Mississippi was able to shine a light on officers not showing up for testimony and, thus, hurting the impaired-driving legal cases.
Tip #3: Recognize officers in the media.
Officers appreciate recognition at an event, but the public should also be informed about their accomplishments. After all, one of the goals of a community organization’s efforts must be to generate broad community support for law enforcement to perform their jobs effectively. Increased awareness by the general public can lead not only to increased support and appreciation, but also may lead to demands for further enhancements of law enforcement efforts. There are several methods for increasing publicity for award winners: