Defund the police. Support the police. Reform the police. Leave the police the heck alone. Lately, we’ve heard demands from all sides about how to handle controversy over police brutality. In part one of this special three-part series, we looked at why some have called for police to be defunded. In part two, we asked local law enforcement leaders what needs to change.
Now, we turn the spotlight on ourselves. What can the media do to ease the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve?
As Much Information As Possible
During the course of covering the peaceful protest in Portsmouth and the death of Kevin Bailey at the Scioto County Jail, Scioto County Daily News has been accused of bias both for and against law enforcement.
While local police reports and mug shots are by far the most popular articles on our site, some have suggested that it would be best if we didn’t share that type of information at all.
Interim Portsmouth Police Chief, Captain Debra Brewer doesn’t agree. ” I am in no way asking you to stop reporting anything. You have a job to do as well as we do.” However, she said it is important to have all the facts before jumping to conclusions. “All I ask is that you get as much information on the situation as possible.”
David Thoroughman, the current head of public safety at Shawnee State University and future Scioto County Sheriff, said bad cops are overplayed in the media.
“The incidents in which an officer acts outside the law such as the recent incident in Minneapolis are not widespread as being portrayed. Yes, even one incident is too many, but most of all law enforcement are good men and women. They are willing, and many have, to lay their lives down to protect their communities.”
Thoroughman said a quick check of the numbers prove that most officers are just good people attempting to do their jobs:
“The facts are there are 17,985 U.S. police agencies in the United States which include City Police Departments, County Sheriff’s Offices, State Police/Highway Patrol and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. In 2018, there were 686,665 full-time law enforcement officers employed in the United States. If, as portrayed by the media and some in politics, law enforcement was mostly bad you would see more incidents such as in Minneapolis.”
The Truth Is Out There
As a news organization, we get a lot of reports about bad behavior on the part of law enforcement. In some cases, we’ve been easily able to disprove the accusations with the facts. In others, like the death of Kevin Bailey, the facts at hand certainly seem to demand further investigation.
The greatest problem with getting all the facts for media organizations is that some police agencies aren’t particularly transparent. Luckily, we’ve seen a change for the better under Interim Chief Brewer’s leadership of the PPD. We look forward to a new era of transparency under David Thoroughman’s leadership at the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office.
Hopefully, we can shine a spotlight on the positive interactions between officers and the community. But we won’t hesitate to turn that spotlight on something that doesn’t seem quite right. Because telling the unfiltered truth is our job around here.