The Media: Happy for Every Scrap From the Cops' Table

Let me tell you a story of a former client I'll call Jimmy Joe-Bob.

Jimmy Joe-Bob was a local politician of some ill repute. The DA and the cops had been gunning for him for years. Finally they came up with what they thought was a solid case against him.

DA investigators went to his house to serve the arrest warrant at 6 a.m. one Friday. (The DA and the cops favor Friday arrests because they can generally drag their heels and avoid bringing the defendant before a judge all day, thus ensuring that he stays in jail all weekend before getting bailed out). First, they tipped off a reporter from the Major Local Rag. But reporters don't like getting up that early. So when the reporter from the Major Local Rag showed up, cameraman in tow, the cops had already cuffed Jimmy Joe-Bob and put him in the back of their cruiser. The reporter protested. Where's my fucking perp-walk!

So the DA investigators pulled Jimmy Joe-Bob out of the back of their car and walked him back into his house. Then they turned around and perp-walked him back to the car so that the Major Local Rag's cameraman could get shots of him being led out of the house and put in the car. Major Local Rag ran those pics.

Major Local Rag did not report that the cops had staged a second perp walk for them. Major Local Rag would never do that. Major Local Rag doesn't report when cops break rules — including rules related to people's rights — to the benefit of Major Local Rag. That's typical. Rags have what they regard as a code of ethics — that even if someone broke the law to leak information to a Rag, then turned around and blamed someone else for that leak in a blatant attempt to obstruct justice, their help to the Rag is sacrosanct. Because otherwise the Rag wouldn't get leaks. Cops wouldn't stage perp walks so they could get good pictures.

I bring this up to explain why I am utterly unsurprised to learn that the media willingly participated in the appalling media circus described in Patrick's post earlier today. We expect journalists to be vigilant watchdogs over law enforcement abuses. They'll make a gesture now and then — when it makes a good headline.

But they'll dash past ten stories of police abuse to take advantage of one cop's leak about a politician, or athlete, or bimbo heiress in some petty scandal.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. perlhaqr says

    We expect journalists to be vigilant watchdogs over law enforcement abuses.

    Pah. I wouldn't expect that any more than I'd expect Saint Nick to come down my chimney late Christmas Eve or to stumble upon the Easter Bunny in my living room.

  2. Rich Rostrom says

    It depends.

    There are times when it looks like the media are happy to report anything that makes cops look bad. And not only report it, but repeat it over and over again, and allude to it on every possible occasion.

    Mind you, I'm talking about cops, bottom-rank officers, as individuals, not the agency or its commanders.

    Also, they will quite happily join a rush to judgment against police in a controversial shooting incident, depending on the politics of the situation.

    There are plenty of "journalists" eager to make their bones by "exposing police misconduct".