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  • Writer's picturejeannettesutton

A concise law enforcement message

Law enforcement messaging is tricky. Do you include content about the nature of the law enforcement activity? Do you give details about the event when it is unfolding?

How do you balance the need for quick messaging and the potential for inaccuracy while helping to protect the integrity of the response and the safety of the population?


Research on what we call "naming the hazard" has shown that populations can better understand the threat if they are told what the hazard is and what might happen to them if they were to encounter the hazard. This also increases self-efficacy and creates more trust in the message-sending organization.


When there are limits to the details that can be included in a public-facing alert, risk communicators can still make it complete and actionable, even if the hazard and hazard description are vague. Here is a great example of a concise law enforcement message.


This message follows the Warning Response Model recommendations for content, style, and structure.


law enforcement message

Source: Wake County Sheriff's Office

Hazard: Law Enforcement Presence

Location: near Yates Mill/Tryon Rd.

Guidance: avoid the area; go inside stay inside; call 9-1-1 to report

Time: until further notice.


The message also uses ALL CAPS to call attention to the key protective actions, helping to highlight the words AVOID, GO INSIDE, and STAY INSIDE.


While we don't know what "suspicious activity" might look like in this instance, there is a call for local assistance to help law enforcement with their police work.


The use of "law enforcement presence" in a WEA message does a few things - it helps message receivers to know about and expect to see increase law enforcement activity, it highlights law enforcement efforts, and it alerts people that they put themselves in danger if they enter the area where law enforcement activity is occurring (danger due to the event as well as danger due to the response).


For more recommended contents, be sure to download The Warning Lexicon - it's free and offers step-by-step instructions on how to write a better warning message.

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