Jumping the Gun

By Jerry Brown, APR

Denver City and County BuildingDenver’s getting a new police chief. The announcement drew overwhelmingly positive media coverage and praise from the community, no small feat for an appointment rife with political pitfalls because of controversies surrounding the Denver Police Department and its current chief.

Based on the reaction so far, the selection of Louisville, Ky., Police Chief Robert White to become Denver’s new top cop was brilliant. He sounds like a great choice for the job.

But tucked away in all the positive reaction to the announcement was an item on a local political blog, ColoradoPols.com, that should cause some concern for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock — not about the selection of White but about the way it was announced.

According to ColoradoPols, White scooped his new boss in making the announcement: The Louisville Police Department announced the appointment at a time when Hancock’s spokesperson was still saying “we’re continuing our review process and hope to have someone appointed soon.”

The result? Hancock was forced to hold a hastily arranged news conference Friday afternoon to “announce” an appointment that had already been released to the media — an announcement he apparently hadn’t planned to make that day.

White’s jumping the gun by announcing his new job before his boss did undoubtedly caused some embarrassment in both Denver and Louisville. But it won’t affect White’s ultimate success or failure in Denver. And the incident almost certainly will go largely unnoticed.

But it raises some interesting questions. Is White a loose cannon and his premature announcement a sign of things to come once he’s in Denver? Did Hancock’s office fail to do its job in coordinating the announcement with White and his staff in Louisville?

I have no idea. And don’t really care.

But there’s a good reminder here for the rest of us. Getting your message right is important. But handling the logistics of an announcement is important, too. It’s important to make sure everyone involved knows exactly who’s going to make the announcement – and when. And it’s important to know who will answer what questions – and what questions need to be referred to someone else.

Dropping the ball on these kinds of logistical issues can lead to serious mistakes.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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