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How Halifax police used a stuffed animal to make you like them more

Meet Merry Beary. It's cute, it's fluffy and for this past year's holiday season, it was used in a campaign by the Halifax Regional Police to highlight the "fantastic work" being done by its employees.
Meet Merry Beary. It's cute, it's fluffy and for this past year's holiday season, it was used in a campaign by the Halifax Regional Police to highlight the "fantastic work" being done by its employees. Halifax Regional Police/Twitter

Meet Merry Beary.

It’s cute, it’s fluffy and for last year’s holiday season, it was used in a campaign by the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) to highlight the “fantastic work” being done by its employees — even if some members of the force weren’t receptive to the public relations push.

Insight into the HRP’s efforts to brighten its public image during the end of last year come to light from nearly 70 pages of internal emails and reports obtained through a freedom-of-information request filed by Global News.

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Using a cute little bear had the goal of raising not just the public’s faith in the police force, but also to “build internal morale,” according to a brief prepared for the campaign.

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The campaign had police staff go to various community events, police functions or day-to-day activities and pose Merry Beary for a photo. This would highlight the HRP officers’ daily duties.

You may have seen the 44 tweets and photos on Facebook or Twitter being shared throughout December by official police accounts with the #MerryBearyHRP attached.

Staff stressed in internal emails that the campaign was not to highlight Christmas in any post.

“Merry Beary isn’t celebrating only Christmas but rather all holidays this time of year,” wrote Cindy Bayers, an HRP communications adviser, in an internal email.

Global News had requested all budget documents and cost estimates associated with the campaign but was told that there were none.

“The ‘Merry Beary Campaign’ was done on a voluntary basis,” Insp. Donald Moser, HRP’s information co-ordinator, wrote in response to the request.

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However, a post-campaign report found that a member of the PR unit devoted roughly half her time to co-ordinate the operation during three weeks of the campaign.

Other officers in the HRP’s PR unit devoted time to collecting photos and writing posts about the campaign.

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And almost all of the HRP officers who took part in the campaign were on active duty at the time the photos were taken.

According to documents released by Halifax police, some members of the force were reluctant to take photos with the bear, citing a desire for privacy or reluctance about being photographed.

Others took part in the campaign after the “campaign objective was explained.”

Many of the emails released by the police force offer hints at the planning necessary to put together the campaign.

At one point early on in the campaign, communications staff with the HRP thought they’d lost the bear, leading to an email exchange in which everyone was reminded that there could only be one Merry Beary.

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According to an internal report prepared by the police service, the campaign is considered a success.

Photos and posts involving Merry Beary received a lot more attention than the force’s regular posts — often receiving hundreds more clicks, likes or shares.

The stuffed bear even got to have some treats after meeting two kids who had baked some cupcakes and created a card for Halifax police officers.

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HRP is planning on reintroducing the bear next year — bigger and better than ever.

The police service wrote in its internal report that a second campaign “will extend Merry Beary’s presence to more areas of HRP and build on external recognition.”