This post is likely premature considering the scope of journalistic malfeasance that is continuing to develop around the story concerning former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner. The case itself raises multiple cultural, procedural and institutional questions.
Reports as of 8:15pm PST indicate that Dorner did in fact die in the cabin where he was suspected of hiding.
What also died today was the last vestige of journalistic integrity. During the early stages of this incident, according to multiple sources, law enforcement authorities asked journalists to not only clear the airspace above the incident (a relatively routine request) but to stop disseminating information, specifically via Twitter. Reports also indicate that law enforcement radio traffic broadcast via the internet was also cut off. Tactical safety of the officers was the reason given.
Operational safety. That’s why the hordes of reporters simply complied with this request. Hmmm. I used to work in public safety so I know a little more than the average Joe about these kinds of scenarios. I was also a trained and certified Public Information Officer…in other words the guy the agency put in front of the microphones to release information.
Here’s the deal…there’s a little thing called the First Amendment that guarantees free speech and a free press. What that means kids is that the government shall not abrogate that freedom. In other words, all the requests made by law enforcement today flew in the face of said amendment…and the organizations who should have been screaming the loudest in protest…meekly complied.
A very dangerous and ominous precedent.
There are operational and tactical safety issues that should be taken into account when a news organization covers a story. But most public safety agencies have a multitude of ways of policing this issue themselves (not releasing information, back channel “coded” radio frequencies not available to the public/media, etc). Look, it’s not okay to televise the tactical movements of officers during a live operation if it’s possible that the suspect could take advantage of that information. But to immediately, and apparently unquestionably conceded to these demands is outrageous. There is always a healthy give and take…a dance if you will with the facts between these competing interests. In this case, one of the interests quit dancing altogether.
I was not there. I do not have access to all the facts. I am simply stunned however, that based upon all the fact available to me at the moment, that the press rolled over so easily.
Folks…this is how democracies fall and we need to get off our lazy butts and start paying attention and demanding answers.
RIP to all those killed by this sociopathic coward. Let’s honor their memories by demanding more from our government and from our democracy.