Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Good, the Bad…

…and the NOPD’s image.

The officers who gunned down a knife-wielding man appeared to be justified in using lethal force, but the death will be perceived as a black mark on the beleaguered police department, the head of a watchdog group said Tuesday.
Two quick points:

First, the shooting will only be “perceived as a black mark” if the press inaccurately portrays it as a black mark. If the police were wrong to shoot, report that the police were wrong. If the police were justified in shooting, report that the police were justified. If we don’t know yet, report that we don’t know yet.

Second, thanks a lot, “watchdog group.” You’re not helping:
"People will continue to have a negative opinion of police in this city," said Rafael Goyeneche, executive director of the Metropolitan Crime Commission of Greater New Orleans. "That goes back to some of the sins the department has been guilty of over the past 10 to 15 years."
Thanks for linking this unrelated incident to 10 to 15 years of “sins” committed by the department (as if a department can commit a sin). And thanks for giving this reporter and countless reporters afterwards a green light to rehash all the bad things people inside the NOPD have ever done over its entire history (i.e. Len Davis).

Look, I am not a cheerleader for the NOPD. It seems excessive to me that three officers shot a total of nine times at a man with a knife. That is for another post.

I am, however, a cheerleader for accurate reporting. And it is not accurate for a reporter to write the shooting “appeared to be justified,” then say it “will be perceived as a black mark,” and then proceed to portray it as a black mark. Remember, it “appeared to be justified.”

The NOPD has an image problem. New Orleans has an image problem. And though some of the negative image is deserved, headlines like “New Orleans Shooting a New Mark on Police” don’t help, especially when the shooting “appeared to be justified.”

NOTE: Just or unjust, the shooting was unfortunate. The purpose of this post was not to address whether the police were right or wrong, but to address how the media’s coverage of the story will be perceived as a black mark on the beleaguered city of New Orleans.

1 comment:

Polimom said...

At this point, it's hard to imagine any scenario for the NOPD that wouldn't play out very badly in the press.

Eventually, the result of this will be police who cannot do their jobs because of the impossible conditions. Even if an incident were to play out "perfectly", the NOPD's reputation will cause excess scrutiny and the "fishbowl effect".

Luckily for everyone, though, Al Sharpton has taken an interest.

That outta help (cough cough).