It’s All Relative

UPDATED 9/29/2014

i170+imageTwo officers were involved in shootings last night 9/27/2014.  My earlier entry indicated that a suspect was identified in one of the officer involved shootings.  That information was incorrect and has since been removed.  Apparently there was some confusion in social media stemming from a vague St. Louis City tweet.  Seeing as the tweet was posted on 9/26 this is obviously not the suspect in question.
https://twitter.com/SLMPD

  1. Around 2100, 9PM, A Ferguson Officer was shot in the arm while investigating a burglary.  No suspect information appears to be available at this time. The officer was taken to the hospital and has since been released.
  2. Around Midnight, an Off-Duty St. Louis City Officer was shot at while in his personal vehicle traveling west on I-70 just before Lambert Airport at I-170.  I’ve heard two separate accounts that he either was able to return fire or was unable to do so.  Whatever the case, the officer was not struck by gunfire and only recieved minor injuries due to shattered glass.  The suspect vehicle is described as a black Dodge Charger occupied by (3) three armed black males.

I am still on my days off, so I was not involved in this response.  A Code 3000 was called.  Looting was rampant and several buildings were set on fire including Schnucks on S. Florissant.  Capt. Ron apparently tried to talk down a crowd who heard about the Ferguson shooting.  Apparently, rumors were spread that the Ferguson shooting resulted in a black male being killed.  Since it was an officer who was struck, they weren’t exactly concerned.

The Justice for Mike Brown crowd has talking points already in place on social media stating that the, “Shooting suspects weren’t protesters.”  However, at the time these talking points started to appear, no one knew who any of the suspects were.  At this point we still don’t have suspects in the I-70 shooting.  Regardless, I’m sure it must all be one big coincidence.

I hate to be absolutist when it comes to arguments, but if anyone argues that these officers deserved to be shot due to perceived injustices with the criminal justice system, the argument is already over.  What’s more, the two shootings last night are just more proof that the Mayberry depicted by the media as it pertains to Ferguson and North County is an utter falsehood.  This is the environment in which we work.  If Darren Wilson overreacted when shooting Mike Brown due to fear, this is why.  This is the result of danger, not racism.

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9 thoughts on “It’s All Relative

  1. I continue to pray for all the officers in the area. I pray for humanity. I watched the live stream broadcast when the police cars started showing up on scene at the Ferguson shooting and was sickened by the celebration at the news that someone had taken a police officer down.

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  2. Thanks for clearing up these events. Do you know why the Ferguson Police Department doesn’t have a Twitter account to combat inflammatory misinformation? Just one official tweet saying the first shooting was related a burglary might have stemmed hours of adrenalin surging through the crowds.

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    • I think you’re hitting on a symptom of a larger problem within both Ferguson and most other local agencies, including the County. Even if the department has a PIO (public information officer), there is no coherent top-down media strategy. My use of the term “media strategy” is not to imply disinformation or conspiracy, but like any other political entity, determine the facts, establish the facts in a concise way for media/public consumption, and provide supporting evidence. Various social media could obviously facilitate what we’re talking about but to use it effectively would mean understanding the situation in Ferguson in a way I think it’s clear that Chief Jackson and Mayor Knowles still don’t. They seem stuck in the Capt. Ron playbook of apologies, appeasement, and participation. We’re almost two months into this and it’s clear that playbook either doesn’t work or in some cases actually makes matters worse. SEE last Wednesday night for further.

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      • I am entirely sympathetic with a small department suddenly presented with such a challenge in Crisis Communications. I understand that this is a PR effort as much as a task of crowd control. I agree Wednesday night was a PR disaster, thinking one could control the message by trying to converse with a street crowd.

        Another question I would put out there is why the DOJ has never compiled a PR guidebook based on similar experiences in other jurisdictions. Each city and town seems required to learn these lessons for themselves. But the early critical mistakes have been made, and I don’t see that the private PR firm has successfully asserted best practices.

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      • There are a lot of things that could be cleared up if people in positions of authority would actually state outright how things should be handled. However, when you give someone a set of legal standards as an authority figure you incur potential liability if those standards don’t work out the way you planned. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, ask any attorney to define “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” for you. Once they’re done rambling without answering your question, ask them to explain what the platitudes and doublespeak they just spewed means for a cop on the street deciding to do a PED (pedestrian) check or affecting an arrest. The legal system thrives on making simple concepts overly complicated and nebulous so that law makers take no responsibility for their guidelines.

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      • Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest I was talking about legal advice from the DOJ, which would make sense. I was referring to training in basic PR principles, which you may already know, but just to show they’re not abstractions:

        1. Never speculate in front of media (don’t say you “know” officer acted correctly). Say you’re cooperating with the investigation to make sure all the facts are weighed.

        2. Express sympathy for the family (don’t apologize).

        3. Assert your commitment to protecting 1st amendment rights and public safety, and don’t say anything that could be interpreted as blaming anyone (defending the officer prematurely suggests MB was at fault and there’s bias; saying “anarchists” opens up a can of worms that suggests you’re fighting some weird ideology, not crime).

        Tie yourself to the mast and stay on message. And again, one can’t expect every police chief in every jurisdiction to have mastered this.

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      • I agree with everything you’ve said, but it doesn’t just have to be legal advice from the DOJ to have ramifications. Any type of advice articulated to be the “right way” to do something can then come back on them in terms of civil or political liability. Another big problem with articulating everything you’ve elegantly summarized is that if someone lacks the critical thinking or common sense to come to your conclusions, and subsequently requires a manual to explain this to them, they probably aren’t well suited for dealing with nor understanding the media in the first place.

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      • Specifically political liability, that’s why there haven’t been any federal agencies involved in the response despite the fact that St. Louis has a field office for practically every Federal Law Enforcement agency. All of those agencies also have tactical teams of their own that could be effective. A common argument against the use of tactical teams (which i contend is false in the case of MSHP, St. Louis City and County, and St. Charles City and County) is that these units are not widely trained. Well, does anyone doubt the training of tactical units within the FBI, DEA, Marshal service, ATF, DHS, ICE, Interior, etc. ? Of course, if they come in then the federal government is responsible and they don’t want to be held responsible for what goes on in the media viper pit.

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