How do we sell DUI enforcement to our officers and the public? As with any good product, it largely sells itself if the target audience is made aware of it.
Garnering the support and response of officers and the public requires leadership, which begins with
awareness and commitment at the highest level of
any organization. Motivating road officers to not
only accept, but also become actively involved with
DUI enforcement, should be one of the focal points
of a progressive traffic enforcement program. This
motivation begins with the chief, sheriff, or other
department head and must be conveyed from the
top down throughout all levels of the organization.
- Officer apathy can be a concern when trying to
promote DUI enforcement. This apathy can
result from a lack of training, so it is essential that
all officers receive the most current training
available in DUI and other traffic enforcement
techniques, including standardized field sobriety
- It seems that many officers fear ridicule if they
incorrectly enforce traffic laws. Training that
improves their professional competence is a
motivational force for most.
- Internal train-the-trainer programs can be a very
effective means to promote traffic enforcement
training, as officers often better accept and
implement training that is provided by trainers
that they know.
The Value of Statistics
- Provide officers and the public with statistics on
DUI collisions, including the number of deaths,
medical expenses, and property damage
involving impaired drivers. Such statistics are
readily available from a variety of sources,
including the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA), state governors’ traffic
safety offices, and MADD. See, for example,
30/ncsa/, www.ghsa.org, www.madd.org.
- In addition to being used to educate officers
and the public, data should be used as part of
any management accountability model to
ensure resources are used in the right place and
at the right time to interdict impaired driving
before crashes occur.
- Law enforcement executives who seek public
support for their enforcement efforts may also
compile local statistics of the cost in life and
property to their community. When citizens are
made aware of the personal costs to them in
human life and injury, along with monetary loss
through medical expenses and property
damage, they are likely to support your efforts.
- Even if citizens are not directly involved in a DUI
crash, they are affected by an increase in their
medical costs and vehicle insurance rates.
These statistics are the foundation of support for
both law enforcement officers and the public
Working with the public is a must in DUI
enforcement. Law enforcement executives should
not be deterred by the occasional negative public
response to impaired driving enforcement. A
consensus of the vast body of research on public
attitudes continues to show that the public rates
impaired driving among the greatest highway safety
threats and there is broad-based support for
enhanced enforcement. DUI enforcement programs
are greatly enhanced when an agency is
proactive in garnering support for its efforts from key
supporters and allies such as MADD and other traffic
safety organizations, community groups, and
- A key component to an effective DUI enforcement
campaign is proactive public relations.
Civic and community groups are often eager to
have police officers and executives make
presentations on traffic and crash-related topics.
These opportunities are invaluable in securing a
broad base of community support, not only for
the traffic and DUI enforcement programs, but
for the agency in general.
- These presentations should focus not only on safe
driving behaviors and the importance of driving
sober, but should also emphasize the
enforcement effort. Public perception that strict
enforcement is occurring is one of the most
effective means of reducing driver behaviors
that contribute to traffic crashes.
- Recent analysis and study of traffic safety
campaigns has demonstrated that clear and
concise messages about strict enforcement are
more effective at eliciting the desired public
compliance than are messages about the
inherent safety benefits of that compliance.
When combined with actual high visibility
enforcement, these messages have a synergistic
impact on public behavior well beyond that of
the actual enforcement effort. Nowhere has
that been more clearly demonstrated as with the “Click It or Ticket” occupant restraint campaign.
- These experiences suggest that deterring
impaired driving may be best accomplished
when messages focus on the likelihood of arrest,
prosecution, and penal implications, rather than
on injury or loss of life. Police executives should
publicly convey their commitment to strict
enforcement of impaired driving to raise the
public perception that those who drive while
impaired will be caught and punished. This
commitment cannot be overstated so long as it
is supported by actual enforcement efforts, and
publicizing the results of those efforts serves to
publicly reinforce that message.
An effective marketing and branding strategy is
crucial in any program devoted to reducing
impaired driving. An example is the “Click It or
Ticket” campaign. This statement and accompanying
exposure heightened the awareness of the
public concerning the importance of wearing seat
belts. A successful campaign must reinforce the
impaired driving reduction strategy and be well
structured. Law enforcement executives should
strongly consider partnering with their Governor’s
Highway Safety Office in their efforts to “get the
message out.” NHTSA also encourages the use of
their new impaired driving tag line: “Drunk Driving.
Over the Limit. Under Arrest.”
COMMUNICATING WITH DIVERSE
While alcohol and drug use has been shown to
vary widely with ethnic and cultural demographics,
ethnic or cultural sensitivities should not be
impediments to effective impaired driving enforcement.
Impaired driving is an equal opportunity killer
that causes the same pain and grief in families and
communities of all ethnicities. This should be the
motivation for law enforcement leaders to institute
highly visible enforcement programs in all communities.
Open and Effective Communications
- As with all traffic enforcement programs, the
success of impaired driving enforcement
programs in diverse communities hinges upon
the openness and effectiveness of communication
between law enforcement and the
community. The community at large should be
made aware that the enforcement effort is not
intended to threaten them, but to protect them.
This can often be achieved by involving
community leaders in the planning process, the
focusing of the enforcement efforts, and by
providing feedback regarding the effectiveness
of the program.
- Agencies that have open and positive
relationships with their communities should utilize
these existing relationships to promote its
enforcement efforts. Agencies without such
existing relationships will be well served in all their
law enforcement efforts by establishing ties with
key community leaders, and keeping lines of
communication open with those leaders year
round, not just in times of crisis or when it serves
the department needs.
- Additionally, police–community relationships
need not consist of people of the same ethnicity
to be effective. It is the mutual interest and
respect that bind such relationships, not racial or
THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNOR’S HIGHWAY
Each state has a governor's highway safety
representative and, in most cases, a statewide
highway safety office (SHSO), directed by a
governor's representative that serves a coordinating
role for programs, information, and funding. SHSOs
are known by various titles state to state.
The mission of these offices is to educate the
public on traffic safety and to facilitate the
implementation of programs that reduce crashes,
injuries, and fatalities on the roadways. SHSOs are a
great asset for impaired driving communications and
media involvement, particularly for small-medium
size local agencies that may not have professional
staff dedicated to handling these functions.
- For example, SHSOs frequently hold media
campaigns to promote both NHTSA and local
safe driving campaigns, such as Click It or Ticket,
where local law enforcement officials can serve
as guest speakers.
- Most SHSOs have available, often at no charge,
a variety of printed publications and media
resources that are ready to be used by your
- The SHSO is also the conduit of federal highway
safety funding available from NHTSA, and many
law enforcement agencies apply for and
receive grants to assist them in combating impaired driving. Such grants may provide
funding for a variety of matters, depending on
the funds available, the data-driven need of a
given community, and the state's Strategic
Highway Safety Plan.
- Another resource similar to the SHSO is the
Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA),
an umbrella organization representing the
interests of the SHSOs and serving as the state’s
voice on highway safety at the national level.
This non-profit association represents the state
and territorial highway safety offices that
administer programs addressing the behavior of
drivers and other road users, and one of its main
focuses is impaired driving. GHSA's mission is to
provide leadership in the development of
national policy to ensure effective highway
safety programs. The Association provides a
collective voice for the states in working with
Congress and the federal agencies to address
their safety challenges. Additionally, the
organization's Web page (www.ghsa.org)
contains a variety of reports, state-by-state
statutory comparisons, and other information to
assist local law enforcement in its efforts to curb
ENGAGING THE MEDIA
Law enforcement agencies need the support of
the public to provide effective police services for our
local and national
media are one of the
most effective means
to reach a broad
audience quickly, so it
is critical to develop
ongoing working relationships
Since everything we
do is in the public
domain, the most
executives take the
mission of engaging
the media seriously.
This approach has a
direct impact on everything they do and they ensure
that the media is engaged at all levels.
As stewards of their community’s safety and
security, successful police executives treat each
interview as an opportunity to disseminate their
agency’s message clearly. With good preparation,
solid messages, and knowledge of a few interview
techniques, you can have a positive influence on
the outcome of stories about your agency and law
enforcement in general.
Training to engage with the media is absolutely
critical. Success in an interview is directly tied to the
quality of the presentation, the ability to articulate
your message, and the level of control exercised
during the interview process. Don’t think an
interview is a conversation or that you can “wing it.”
Instead, view it as an opportunity to make a welldeveloped
presentation, reflecting research,
preparation, and enthusiasm. Specialized media
training can better ensure success in this endeavor.
Considerable thought should be given to what
you want to say and how to say it. Anticipate the
issues and questions of an interviewer and equip
yourself with short, memorable, positive and relevant
messages. Practice, practice, practice.
Be aware of interview time constraints and the
importance of optimizing every moment. Some
interview situations will allow you to talk at length;
however, for most, it is critical to distill your message
down to 12-to-15 second sound bites or one-to-two
dozen quotable words. Because you have no
control over what questions an interviewer will use in
the final story, each of your answers should deliver a
Basic techniques you can use to control an
interview and present your message:
Take advantage of opportunities before and
during the interview to “hook” your interviewer.
Suggest topics, entice the reporter into your agenda,
and focus on your messages.
The smooth transition from the interviewer’s
question to your message. A direct question
deserves a direct answer. Then, after briefly touching
upon the answer, bridge to your message and
A way to underscore, verbally and non-verbally,
what is important within your answers during the
course of an interview. You can use voice inflection,
a hand gesture, eye contact, body language, or a
phrase like, “What is really critical to know about this
issue is…” to ensure the interviewer and the
audience have a clear understanding of what you
think is important.
- Personal Credibility
Remember, you’re the expert, that’s why you’re
being interviewed. Use your personal knowledge
and experience for emphasis and avoid speaking
about police services in the abstract.
- For example, if you can say, “I’ve been a
patrol officer” or “I’ve talked to the men
and women using this community policing
technique,” say it. Your critics aren’t shy
about their credentials; you shouldn’t be
An interview has a purpose and so should you.
Know what you want the headline or main message
to be. During an interview, repeat your message
frequently. In an audio or video taped interview, you
rarely know in advance which of your statements will
be used in the final edit of the broadcast story.
Repetition helps to ensure the audience and the
media remember your messages.
Rules of Engagement
- The Interviewer and the Audience
Prior to any interview, find out as much as you
can about your interviewer and your audience.
Don’t confuse the two—the former is only a conduit
to the latter. Tailor your messages accordingly.
- The Record
Always consider yourself “on the record” and
never say anything you don’t want to see in print or
broadcast. However, should you decide to say
something “on background” or even “off the
record,” clearly indicate the rules for that portion of
the interview before you put on a microphone and
be sure the interviewer agrees you are “on
background” or “off the record” first. Otherwise, you
are still “on the record.”
Remember to avoid police jargon, acronyms,
and technical terms. If you need to use a law
enforcement term, be sure to define it. Every
member of your audience should understand your
The old saying goes: “You won’t win an
argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel,
or videotape by the case,” so don’t argue. By the
same token, there may be times when an interviewer
is confrontational, and you may need to “step up” to
the situation to maintain control of the interview.
Never let yourself become a passive participant in
the interview process.
- Protect the Record
Your credibility as a law enforcement executive
depends on it, because “a lie unchallenged
becomes the truth.” Bad information has a way of
propagating and taking on a life of its own, unless
challenged. If an interviewer asks you a question
based on false data, be sure to protect and correct
the record. Be careful not to repeat the false data
yourself and to avoid any negative or emotionally
charged statements. Don’t let a damaging story
gather credibility or extra weight by letting the
falsehood come from your own lips.
Always answer honestly, but never say, “No
comment.” If you don’t know the answer to a
question, if the answer is classified, invades
someone’s privacy, or would compromise an
ongoing investigation, it’s ok to say so. Answer
honestly and, in doing so, bridge to one of your
Communication: A Vital Mission
Remember, communication is a crucial part of
every officer’s job and is even more critical for police
executives. It’s the only way law enforcement can
develop the public support needed to perform its
public functions effectively. Every media encounter
is a valuable opportunity to convey who we are,
what we do, and what we need to do—the job our
community expects of us. Formal training in
communications and working the media is available
from a variety of sources, including colleges and
universities. The investment in formal training can
pay substantial dividends in terms of effective
representation of your agency, its officers, and its
programs. In addition, a Public Information Officer
course directed specifically at traffic programs is
available from the NHTSA. Interested parties should
inquire with their regional NHTSA office.
MAINTAINING ONGOING MEDIA
It is essential that law enforcement organizations
take the time to develop long-term relationships with
their media. As with any worthwhile relationship,
building a long-term relationship with the media
takes a great deal of time and effort to both
develop and sustain. Unless the relationship is
mutually beneficial for all involved, it will fail. One
key factor in ensuring that the relationship is mutually
beneficial is to understand each other’s needs.
Needs of the Media
“Filling the Sausage Casing,” “Feeding the
Beast,” or “Formatting the Rundown” are terms used
by news producers to describe the daily task of filling
pre-determined time slots with information for their
viewers, listeners, or readers. Although the news of
the day continually changes, the time segments
allotted to report the stories remain the same. We
need to remind ourselves that we are just one of the
many organizations that are competing for media
attention on a daily basis. Therefore, it is essential
that we cater to the needs of the media by ensuring
that our information is both timely and newsworthy.
Understanding the Media’s Timelines – “Being Ready to Pounce”
As everyone knows, drinking and driving
tragedies occur on our streets and highways every
day across North America. Unfortunately, these daily
tragedies have become so commonplace that the
public and the media routinely let the stories of
seriously or fatally injured victims of impaired driving
crashes go by with little or no recognition.
The vast majority of media outlets work on their
stories on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, it is essential
that agencies not miss out on opportunities to speak
out about these tragedies when they occur. When a
tragedy takes place, media outlets will need to
speak to a spokesperson immediately, not tomorrow.
If the goal is to keep your message alive all year
round, then it is essential that we have a game plan
in place to deal with these potential “opportunities”
when they become available. Potential spokespersons
must be ready to go with prepared
messages. Although the time, location, and victims
change from crash to crash, the “Don’t Drink and
Drive” message remains the same.
Thinking Outside of the Podium – Customizing the News Conference
Media reporters require three main ingredients to
tell any story—images, sound, and people. Holding
a news conference in a sterile media gallery may be
easy to organize, but it may not get the media
coverage desired. Our organizations must be willing
to think creatively if we truly want to obtain
coverage. Visiting a crash scene on an anniversary
date, having a family member (if they are willing)
and/or the investigating officer present to speak with
the media, or hosting a news conference at a local
school to launch a “Safe Grad” initiative are just a
few examples of different ways to present a story.
There are several ways to notify the media about
a news conference or other event, including a
phone call, email, fax, and/or media advisory (a
one-page document that includes the who, what,
when, where, and why of the event). Consider using
several means of contact, since the media are so
busy and are tracking so many stories simultaneously.
After sending out the media advisory, someone with
media experience should contact each media
outlet to ensure they have received the invitation
and to provide a ten-second pitch about why they
should cover the story. This is also an excellent
opportunity to advise them of the importance of the
event being covered and/or what extra steps have
been taken to make their jobs easier (e.g.,
spokespersons being made available, visuals,
statistics being made available, etc.).
Placing the Story
On the day of an event or announcement, a
news release may be needed to make the media’s
job easier. Part of good media relations is
understanding how the media requires information
to be sent to them. The news release should be
timed for distribution to all media and available
online at the same time as the announcement. For
those media that do not attend, you can send them
the news release and available press kit, with all the
necessary story elements, and follow up by phone to
make sure they understand the significance of the
news and how it fits in the big picture, aka, “why
they should care.”
Impaired Driving Law Enforcement
The following is a list of some of the traditional
events that can be used to keep the impaired
driving law enforcement message alive all year
- Super Bowl Sunday
- St. Valentine’s Day (What says “love” more than
being a Designated Driver?)
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Memorial Day and other holiday weekends
- Cultural events in your city where alcohol is
involved (e.g., Octoberfest)
- Athletic Event Tailgate Parties—Set up “spot
checks” in immediate area and let them know
ahead of time
- “Safe Grad”
- Red Ribbon Campaigns in November/December
- Anniversary dates—especially in local high profile
- Auto Shows/Classic Car Shows—Set up drinking/
driving information booths
Each year, someone dies in an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash every 31 minutes and someone is injured every two minutes.
Many traffic safety partners, including MADD
and NHTSA regional offices, provide template media
materials that can be valuable to law enforcement.
Internet technology has brought an unprecedented
amount of information to the fingertips.
Information that not long ago required a staff to
research, decipher, and maintain can now be had
by anyone with minimal effort. Access to information
to communicate your missions and programs to your
officers and the public alike is just a few mouse clicks
While Internet searches can provide volumes of
information to assist you in your communications
efforts, key Web sites have been designed
specifically for this purpose. Appendix B of this
document includes a list of Internet sites that provide
valuable statistics, training, and other materials to
assist law enforcement in developing a
comprehensive and effective impaired driving
Summing it up…
- Use communications strategies yearround to publicize law enforcement priorities, develop public support, and publicize enforcement activities.
- Use clear and concise messages about strict impaired driving enforcement.
- Combine publicity with actual high visibility enforcement to create a synergistic effect.
- Increase publicity by seeking earned media coverage before, during, and after law enforcement operations (to announce them, increase their visibility, and publicize the results).
- Develop long-term relationships with the media.