Social Media


How the International Association of Chiefs of Police galvanized its law enforcement conference through a social media campaign.


There are jobs and careers, and then there are callings. When Schae Kane and Cori Prasifka attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s (IACP) 2014 Annual Conference and Exposition, they realized they were seeing the latter.

Kane and Prasifka both work for FreemanXP — Kane as a strategy director, Prasifka as an associate strategist. Freeman is IACP’s general contractor, and the two were at IACP 2014 in Orlando to do an event audit, Kane said, “where we as strategists come in to their annual show and experience it the way that the typical attendee would.”

As Kane and Prasifka sat in on general sessions, wandered the show floor, and sampled IACP’s education program, they noticed something about the organization and its members. “Being a police officer requires a certain commitment to service, and to protecting and serving the communities where they live and work,” Kane said. “It’s something that is not necessarily a career choice for every person, but for those people that are called to protect and serve us, we felt like that was a special commitment that they make. We felt like there was an opportunity for the association to connect their commitment to the annual event by focusing on the emotional connection that they have to their profession and why they wear the badge.”


A few months later, Freeman submitted an audit report to IACP that included a variety of recommendations for pursuing a strategy “that’s more engaged emotionally with their attendee base and with their membership,” Kane said. One of the results: a campaign around the idea of #WhyIWearTheBadge, which formally debuted at IACP 2015 in Chicago last October.

“I think it’s fair to say that in the last few years, law enforcement has been under the spotlight,” said Gene Voegtlin, IACP’s director of policy, outreach, and membership services. “How police operate and how they do what they do has been examined, and the public is paying close attention…. What we heard from our members is that, in many ways, they did not feel that the true picture of who they were and why they do what they do was really being portrayed. We tried to think of a way to capture that, that would allow our members to speak for themselves.”


IACP first rolled out #WhyIWearTheBadge as a social-media initiative during National Police Week last May, generating 9,725 mentions by 4,500 users in the five months leading up to IACP 2015 on Oct. 24–27. “We built on that,” Voegtlin said, “leading all the way up to the annual conference in Chicago, where we drew from a wide array of the thousands of comments that have been posted about the campaign to create some displays.”

Throughout Chicago’s McCormick Place, IACP placed tall standup signage with photos of members from around the world holding signs explaining why they wear the badge. Among them: “What motivates me is the opportunity to connect with someone in the community.” “I chose law enforcement as a career to continue to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States just as I did while serving overseas.”

IACP also handed out thousands of #WhyIWearTheBadge t-shirts, and encouraged attendees to take and post #WhyIWearTheBadge photos at the IACP Central booth on the show floor. And there was a large graffiti wall right outside the general-session room where attendees could write out an answer. By the end of the conference, the sprawling white surface was jammed with impassioned scribbles.

“I’ll be honest — IACP being slightly more conservative, I wasn’t sure our members would take to doing the graffiti wall, but it was a huge hit,” Voegtlin said. “I think it really speaks to the fact that they believe passionately about what they do and care about their profession. They’re proud of it.”

Total attendance at IACP 2015 was upwards of 15,500, with law-enforcement professionals coming from 81 different countries. #WhyIWearTheBadge resonated with many of them. “Law enforcement is different around the country, around the world, but they all chose to get into it for generally the same reasons,” Voegtlin said. “Whether it’s a desire to protect individuals that can’t protect themselves, whether it’s to give back, it was pretty clear that the themes expressed by our membership through this campaign really demonstrated that the true nature of those involved in law enforcement is to make sure that everyone has a better community in which to live.”

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.