Three months after a police incident that was recorded on a cellphone and the video went viral on social media, Fort Worth’s city manager next week expects to enter into a contract to hire a consultant to work with the city on its crisis communications efforts.
Using the officer William Martin case as an example, City Manager David Cooke said the consultant at first would come in and provide crisis communications training for the staff, evaluating how the city handled its message to the media and public, and what can be learned from their efforts.
“Good or bad, this is my idea,” Cooke said.
Cooke said he has talked with four public relations firms that also deal in crisis communications management. He said Friday that a contract has not been offered yet, but he expects that to happen next week.
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In December, officer Martin’s arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters was recorded on a cellphone and posted to Facebook. The video sparked an outcry from the community about the officer’s behavior. Martin was later suspended for 10 days. The city, though, is still reeling from the incident.
In addition to the training, the crisis communications firm could also be involved in working with the city on a retainer basis, being called in to consult when needed. The consultant would not be a spokesperson for the city, but would work behind the scenes helping to draft strategies tailored to a specific situation, the city said.
We could use a little bit of training and brush up on crisis communications skills. The Officer Martin incident really brought some issues to light where we could see some improvements are needed.
Valerie Washington, Fort Worth assistant city manager
Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington said the consultant would work with all city departments, not just the police department.
“We have some really good public information officers and public relations people on staff,” Washington said. But, she said, “We could use a little bit of training and brush up on crisis communications skills. The officer Martin incident really brought some issues to light where we could see some improvements are needed.”
“We’re a big city,” Washington said. “This is what big cities do; you consult with experts.”
Cooke said because a contract is not in place yet, he did not know how much it would cost the city.
The City Council will not vote on the contract. City policy allows the city manager’s office to execute service and purchase contracts under $100,000 without council approval.