Canadian policing agencies launch public relations campaign against outlaw motorcycle gangs

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      In recent years, law-enforcement organizations and government agencies have launched public relations blitzes about motor-vehicle thefts, drinking and driving, and the lifesaving effects of seat belts.

      The latest PR campaign comes courtesy of the Canadian Integrated Response to Organized Crime.

      It's a group of senior police executives who came together in 2007 to respond to information gathered by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.

      Beginning yesterday, CIROC has started using social media to paint a grim picture of outlaw motorcycle gangs.

      The "True Colours" campaign on the website of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit—British Columbia features patches on leather jackets with devastating messages such as "betrayed", "violence", and "fentanyl dealer".

      The imagery is effective, making bikers look like a bunch of cheats, killers, and losers. And it might convince some young people that the one percenter lifestyle isn't all it's cracked up to be.

      Marketing is a tool that's increasingly being used by police to advance their objectives. And it's creating plenty of work for talented graphic designers.

      PR is not just being employed to stigmatize the bad guys, either.

      Back in 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice funded a study, "Identifying Strategies to Market Police in the News", explaining how departments could improve their messaging on community policing.

      In fact, creating a brand has become increasingly important for police departments.

      In Vancouver, that's reflected in the VPD's slogan "Beyond the Call". It's repeatedly invoked to demonstrate that its officers are courageous and community-minded.

      The Mounties have adopted the French motto "Maintiens le droit."

      Of course, these branding efforts get soiled when an officer is charged or convicted of a criminal offence, or when a cop on the beat kills a civilian with mental illness.

      Or, in the case of the RCMP, when the force faces lawsuits from former female members alleging they were harassed by their male colleagues.

      But these controversies aren't going to stop the policing public-relations juggernaut.

      Campaigns with catchy images convey to the public that police are addressing a problem. Plus, they can serve as a useful deterrent for more criminal activity.

      An added bonus? They boost the public profile of law-enforcement agencies.

      That can be helpful when they want to secure a bigger share of government budgets to fund more of these campaigns in the future.

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