Bad Marketing – Part 251,876

Just about every group in America has a message to send. Some of those messages are uplifting, some are calls to action, and some are really trying hard to be both of those, but just fail miserably. They are bad marketing.

Then there are those occasional instances where the message is so onerous, that you have to wonder why someone would ever think this is a good idea. Such is the most recent entry by the Memphis Police Association.

As reported on WREG and other outlets, the MPA has a new billboard on Poplar highlighting the City’s high murder rate last year, and implying the number has something to do with fewer cops being on the beat.

That’s foolishness, and about everyone who knows anything about anything knows it.

The Madness Behind the Message

Another failed attempt at marketing – via WREG

This is just another in a string of messages from the MPA concerning benefit cuts that took place several years ago. The group has been trying to pressure the Mayor’s office and the City Council to reinstate those cuts using the most incendiary tactics they can find…to little effect.

This isn’t a way to make friends and influence people, its a temper tantrum.

The MPA has every right to be upset about the benefit cuts. In fact, I share their anger. But they sure as hell make it hard to be on their side when they put out messages like this.

Its a tactic the MPA has used time and time again, to little effect. The MPA and its President, Mike Williams believes fear is the way to get what they want. For years they’ve been trying to stoke fear for political effect, to no avail.

I support restoring the benefit cuts. I even support a tax increase to fund them. But I find myself hoping the City Council and Mayor’s office won’t reward this kind of behavior.

I don’t think they should punish it either.

I do think they need to send a clear message that until they get an honest good faith broker from the MPA, that this kind of activity will actually hurt any effort to restore the cuts.

Intellectually Dishonest

What’s most annoying about this messaging effort by the MPA, which began several years back, is it is intellectually dishonest.

Their message implies that the benefit cuts have led to fewer cops on the beat, which explains the rise in violent crime. The first part of that argument has some truth to it. Benefit cuts have led to some officers leaving and have presented recruitment challenges. But linking that to the crime rate is intellectually dishonest.

Here’s the reality: the number of cops on the beat has nothing to do with the number of murders or any other kind of violent crime in the City. While the murder rate has gone up and down over the past several years, the reality is it has stayed in a general range no matter how many cops were on the beat. The same thing can be said for all violent crime in the City.

There is no causal relationship to the number of cops and the rate of violent crime.

So while I get it, laying last year’s record homicide rate on the lap of the City Council, the Mayor’s office, or the current MPD administration is like blaming the number of babies born in a year on OB/GYN’s. They didn’t get the people pregnant, they just delivered the babies.

Self-Interest Serving No One

Ultimately, this kind of message does nothing but force people, including politicians, deeper into their corners. I agree that Memphis Cops deserve to have their benefits restored. I agree that part of that effort may require an adversarial posture from the MPA. But this is NOT the way to do it.

The MPA has a right to stand up for its members. But it should do that while being both honest about what drives the problems in our city.

There are plenty of cities all over nation who have fewer cops and a lower crime rate. Why is that? Because the cities are taking a more proactive approach to the systemic problems that lead to higher crime rates. Things like education, access to healthcare, good public transportation, and job placement services have a greater impact on violent crime than the number of cops on the beat.

If the MPA wants their cops to get their benefits back, they should stop just thinking about what they want, and start thinking about what the City needs. By advocating for those things, they could get their benefits restored, though most likely with a smaller force.

But I doubt the MPA will do that. They’d rather stare at the trees and wonder where the forest is.

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