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  • Owning the narrative

    Being an avid reader of the news I can't help but see all the anti-cop stories that get published almost on a daily basis. Everything from the constant coverage of the NYPD in custody death to the OIS in a walmart where the suspect had an air rifle and refused to comply. One thing that always jumps out at me being a cop is how the agency involved rarely jumps out ahead of the negative press, and let's people like Radley Balko, and Al Sharpton control the narrative. Now I understand ongoing investigations and the need to keep somethings private. Wouldn't it make more sense for admins to come out and say this is what we know, this is the circumstances that brought our officers to the scene and this is what we know happened once they arrived. Great a lot of departments do this releasing initial statements, however once the spin starts we clam up. I haven't seen one release from the NYPD explaining the difference between something being against department policy (choke holds, and no I don't think it was a chokehold personally) and something being illegal. I never see departments coming out and saying no person X was not arrested for filming the police, or for walking in the middle off the road they were arrested for X Y or Z offense which was directly correlated to their behavior. Maybe I'm F'd up like a football bat for thinking the media would listen or publish a true version of events. But in my daily dealings with non LEO's I find that a simple explanation of things is usually well received. Maybe some people who have or had the gold badges can enlighten me as to why we don't own our narratives and shut some of these loud mouths down. Let's start explaining to people that use of force doesn't look pretty like in the movies, and a man with a gun call especially in a crowded store is treated as such until proven otherwise and that when the police tell you to put the gun down you put it down whether or not it's an air rifle or a real gun.

  • #2
    Mostly because that would require a backbone, and a lot of agencies require their command staffs to turn theirs in when they get the stars. Not all, admittedly, but many. Especially at larger agencies or in larger cities. Politics rule, not the law, not justice, and not fairness. The citizens, at least the vocal ones, want us to enforce the law with hand holding, hugs, nice polite words, because they are so insulated, they believe that officers deal with people just like them. They, in many but not all cases, as I said, don't believe that violence is necessary or that evil is real. And so, the command staff and politicians throw officers under the bus so that they can look decisive and like "people of the people."

    It's like a traffic stop. Every person you ever pull over on a traffic stop has some reason they believe they should be let go, because in their mind, they have a reason for what they did. When we walk up, we are approaching a potentially life threatening situation. The person you have pulled over wants to believe that because they might be late for work, or have to go to the bathroom, or simply don't believe the stop sign applied to them, that they have the right and the duty to demand that we follow their beliefs. So, they argue, or try and explain, or refuse to comply. They don't understand why we approach the way we do or react the way we do.

    Ask a sgt or Internal Affairs guy, how many complaints they get on traffic stops. They complain because the officer was "rude," or "mean," or just not what they expected. Professionalism is viewed as cold, and the average citizen doesn't understand it. They don't understand our training, because they don't use violence in their daily lives.

    It's the same way when it comes to those video's. Besides the fact that the news media really has no interest in the truth. The story and sensationalism is what they want. Even if the departments were to come out, which you are correct, most don't, the news media would still run with the more interesting and sensational story. It makes much better news to say that officers murdered a poor, obese man, doing nothing but selling illegal cigarettes to feed his poor family, than it does to say officers tried to arrest a man for breaking the law, he fought, and during the struggle, due to his poor general health and physical fitness, the guy died. The first story sells papers. The second gets skipped over for more celebrity news.

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    • #3
      Another reason is that if anything changes between the initial release and any subsequent release, it will be viewed as a coverup and the police 'protecting their own' (if it exonerates those involved anyway) and the agency will be excoriated for it anyway.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by kermit315 View Post
        Another reason is that if anything changes between the initial release and any subsequent release, it will be viewed as a coverup and the police 'protecting their own' (if it exonerates those involved anyway) and the agency will be excoriated for it anyway.
        You know if people aren't smart enough to realize investigations are ongoing and fluid then their opinion probably isn't with a whole lot anyways.

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        • #5
          We'll never "own the narrative" in the sense I believe you're referring to. The "media" are free to pursue any agenda they choose. Currently, that is the "If it bleeds it leads" school of journalism. There was a time when journalism was a trusted and respected profession. With very few exceptions that is no longer the case. The media are all too often simply arrogant, ignorant, ill informed, over compensated, talking heads.

          All of that said, I do not favor any curtailment or abridgement of the 1st Amendment. I only wish that the so called "media" was willing the defend the Second Amendment with the same fervor with which they defend the First.

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          • #6
            From an administrative point of view it really is necessary to be EXTREMELY careful with what you say in public (which WILL get recorded somehow) and even more so careful HOW you say things.

            In Corrections we have a saying "It is easier to change from a "NO" answer to a "yes" than the other way around. Basically that means if you tell someone something-----------it is hard to take it back if you were mistaken without being accused of LYING.


            The media (or defense attorney ---or CIVIL SUIT attorney) will twist, turn or mangle ANYthing you say so why give them ammunition to do so. So yea, we are not going to "own the narrative" for public consumption.

            In reality MOST of the time the administration will PRIVATELY support the officers (YOUR MILEAGE WILL VARY) even if they don't publicly.
            Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

            My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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            • #7
              Great thread. I've even wondered the same thing myself. Leave it to Phil and Iowa to explain why it leans so much one way. It's a shame, though. I'm not a cop of course; I'm ex-military. I can't stand to see when the press does it to the military.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jamiller85 View Post
                You know if people aren't smart enough to realize investigations are ongoing and fluid then their opinion probably isn't with a whole lot anyways.
                Do you read the comments on the articles and news reports RE: police involved incidents? While we may feel their opinion isn't worth much, it is more prevalent and loud than the common sense that should rule the day. A couple of perfect examples are the kid in California with the broken toy AK pattern rifle that pointed it at the police. The police were later cleared of wrongdoing, but the officers were still tried in the court of public opinion and I highly doubt that those opinions have changed. Another (non police) example is the Zimmerman debacle, where the loud court of public opinion ended up putting a person on trial for something that an agency had already decided was a settled matter.

                My point is that no real good can come from showing all your cards at the beginning of an investigation. Any bit that changes as the investigation goes on only adds fuel to the fire of 'police coverup'. I agree with a basic press release and a statement that says in investigation is ongoing, then the results once the investigation is complete. Anything beyond that is an invitation to MMQB tactics in the news and invites other forms of speculation that may or may not have anything at all to do with the investigation.

                Just my opinion.

                Originally posted by EmmaPeel View Post
                Great thread. I've even wondered the same thing myself. Leave it to Phil and Iowa to explain why it leans so much one way. It's a shame, though. I'm not a cop of course; I'm ex-military. I can't stand to see when the press does it to the military.
                What kind of ex mil?

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                • #9
                  I'll give you a somewhat more benign example of the way the media intentionally sensationalizes news stories for consumption.

                  One evening I responded as fire scene photographer to a house fire about five miles from my house...First in engine was between 2 and 3 miles or so closer than I was so maybe a 10-12 minute run for me vs a 5-6 minute run for them...in that few minutes difference, they ahd the fire knocked down, and only a little smoke was showing from a second story window...the scene reeked of 'Burned Bed' as I rolled up and got out of the ride.

                  Sure 'nuff, they'd just laddered that very 2nd floor window, and were removing the sodden and smoking remains of a mattress. Caught it before it flashed over, the actual fire damage confined to the mattress, box spring, and wall next to the bed, heat, smoke, and water damage in the room, smoke damage throughout the second floor. I took about five pics, and headed for home. There was still ice in the Pepsi I was drinking when the call came in when I got back. Not exaxctly a major conflageration.

                  Eleven O'clock news...

                  "Flames tore through an area home early tonight..."

                  I actually asked the reporter who made that onscene report...a very cute young She-Reporter I might add...about it. (I got there, got the few shots I took, socialized for a couple of minutes, and left before The Media even got close apparently) and she all but admitted that they sweeten at least the lead-in tag to make it more interesting.

                  I suggested 'Flames smouldered through an area mattress' may have been more appropriate...but it wouldn't have drawn viewers attention.

                  So yes, ratings and sales have indeed trumped accuracy, even on a routine bedroom fire. On a major incident of any kind, especially one involving Law Enforcement, the news broadcast should be labeled as a 'Procedural Drama' in channel guide, and the paper containing the article might as well be moved to the "Fiction' section...it's usually that bad.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I appreciate all the replies very insightful I just get sick of seeing officers dragged through the mud by the media who only fans the flames for the sake of clicks. I guess it's easy for me to say if a news outlet misrepresents the facts or files incomplete stories we should stop providing information to them but probably much harder for the admin to even contemplate doing.

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                    • #11
                      Anything you say can and will be used in court against you.

                      So when officer Joe Cop shoots someone pulling a wallet from his pants and the dept makes a statement, then the family sues, they go back to those statements to get more money.

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                      • #12
                        We do not comment on ongoing investigations, doesn't matter if the subject of the investigation is us or Joe Dirtbag. We are required to be impartial and allow the case to be tried in the courts where it belongs. The media and Dirtbag families are under no such obligation and chose to use the court of public opinion.

                        A short blurb of truth will sell a lot fewer papers than hype.
                        Today's Quote:

                        "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."
                        Albert Einstein

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jamiller85 View Post
                          But in my daily dealings with non LEO's I find that a simple explanation of things is usually well received. Maybe some people who have or had the gold badges can enlighten me as to why we don't own our narratives and shut some of these loud mouths down.
                          You said: "a simple explanation of things is usually well received". I think that is true, but apparently, this does not translate to a police agency commenting on a use-of-force investigation. Why not? The only reason I can think of is because the police agency must take a defensive position in all such communications, because lawyers and politicians, many of whom are hostile to the police, are waiting for the best opportunity to attack.

                          Apparently, police agencies must assume, before they know one way or the other, hostile intentions on the part of anyone who inquires about investigations. If that's true, then it would hardly be possible to control the narrative.
                          https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/TROP.jpg

                          List of Islamic terror attacks in the last 30 days

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