Unhappy with police reporting

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:42

    I am compelled to write since it appears taking the high road does not command the respect it once did, even here in our Sparta community. I attended a Sparta Town Council meeting on April 12 to share with the council that, in my opinion, police press reporting by the public relations officer not only sensationalizes at the expense of one’s reputation, but includes mistruths to protect and justify overzealous behavior on the part of some police officers. As a result of such reporting, a recent news article included my name and a friend’s and contained several inaccuracies and false accusations as proven by examining the police audio and video records of the event. I was bullied and treated poorly in my own driveway for no reason other than the perception I was “disrespecting” the officer by being verbally passionate in support of a friend. Since when is it against the law to tell a police officer I believe he targeted my friend? As a result, my involvement in the incident was sensationalized and exaggerated in a police press release which was based solely upon input from the overzealous police officer. When it came to my attention that an Internet search would link to a news article based upon the original inaccurate police press release, I made several attempts to meet with the public relations officer to go over the videos to confirm the mistakes and thus take steps to remove the article from the Internet. I simply wanted an accurate correction, based upon the facts, to be reflected on the Internet. Police press releases are written based on one side and are subsequently published by news media. Many times, these articles are then published on the Internet. When such press releases are filled with erroneous statements to justify an officer’s actions, it is time to speak out. It is my opinion that fact checking, as is the norm in most newsworthy reporting processes, should also be required by our police press reporting. We live in a society where innocent until proven guilty is a standard of our democracy. For any one of us to be damaged by erroneous reporting is offensive, to say the least. Our reputation is tarnished and harm is done, especially if a person is seeking employment or is a candidate for advancement in his/her career. Although the town manager kindly supported my concern and request for a review of how police press reports are processed, I chose to back off like so many others before me. However, I recently noticed that a specific incident and therefore, the people involved, were completely withheld from police reporting. I realized I had to speak out — not just for myself but for the many who have faced similar circumstances. I requested several times the PR officer meet with me and show me the video and audio that was taken at the time. I wanted to see proof of the officer’s accusations. My requests were simply ignored. I would like to make it clear I was never processed and received nothing more than a minimal fine for disrespecting the officer. Also, there was no language used that isn’t heard every night on prime time TV, as that has never been my way of speaking. For the fairness of all taxpayers in our community, the public relations officer writing press releases needs to confirm his facts before he publicly humiliates someone. My attorney in this case has reviewed and completely supports this communication. Sharon McCormack Sparta