Police departments use public relations techniques to justify their actions | An alternative view | Diana’s Diamond

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An alternative view

By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is true – and false – about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog, I want to discuss all of this with you. I know that many locals care about this city and want to explore our collective interests to help … (More)

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Uploaded: May 18, 2021

I am concerned. Police departments across the country are circling their cars amid recent public criticism of the wrongdoing of their officers, including the George Floyd case. This circle includes public relations professionals who help departments tell their side of the story. This is happening nationally, but also locally, including in Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

A 2019 state police transparency law requires departments to publicly disclose information about any shootings involving officers. Awesome.

But the police are pretty dexterous, and instead of just posting the filming information in a straightforward fashion and posting the officer’s body camera online, they’ve taken a different route: more than 100 California departments have signed contracts with an agent. public relations firm that creates “clever videos to justify police shootings – but critics say they distort the facts and undermine transparency laws,” according to a headline and a long article in Sunday’s Mercury News.

The department’s videos all have the same format – a police chief or sheriff opens to inform the public of a critical case involving a shootout or unusual force by a police officer and explaining why it was warranted. This is followed by 911 dispatches, a map, and finally with the chief saying how sorry he was for the family of the individual the police killed. And the result is always the same – a justification for the actions of the officer.

And the nifty videos, which are really police marketing devices, are really of great concern to me – if 100 California police departments in California and many more around the country are going to rely on videos produced by public relations. to protect and defend their services. and officers, America has a problem. We expect the police to be fair, honest and open. But these videos often omit information about the case, distort what happened, tell only half the story, and help lead audiences to initially think that the police followed their rules and that what they are doing. she did (like shooting someone) was necessary and legal. Often, camera images of the police officer’s body are not released – or simply shown briefly.

Just think of all the incidents where the police shot a black person where the boss or the DA said the police acted appropriately and would not be charged. It just happened in North Carolina where the three officers shot Andrew Brown, Jr., claiming he was trying to escape and his car became his “weapon”, putting the police in jeopardy. Brown was unarmed but killed. The prosecutor said the police actions were “justified” and no charges were brought against the police.

What this means for Americans is that we can no longer fully trust our police, which is frightening. And the more they circle their cars, the less we know about what is going on in our cities.

The big problem here is that the chefs are leaning the public perspective. In one video, the chief said two police officers were firing tasers at a suspect, who continued to advance, so the police had to shoot him for protection. But days later, according to the Mercury, a third officer not seen onscreen was charged with manslaughter.

Menlo Park has a contract with the public relations company, Critical Incident Videos, LLC of Vacaville, which produces these videos for which the police pay.

Two years ago, after Palo Alto police beat a man in front of Happy Donuts on El Camino, Lieutenant. James Reifschneider stood in front of a video camera to explain a violent arrest of Julio Arevaalo in 2019. The clean, handsome officer reminded me of a typical choir boy. The central cast could not have chosen a better representative of the police force. I’m not sure if the PRA company above was involved in the video, but the format was typical and the message was that the police hadn’t done anything wrong. The facial bones of the arrested man were broken during this violent encounter.

As I previously said in a blog post, Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen continues to encrypt all police radio transmissions so that the press and the public can no longer eavesdrop on conversations between police officers. agents. A reporter must email a form to the ministry to ask a question, and reporters cannot speak directly to officers – a major change from just a few years ago. Of course, there are press releases, but the police decide which police activities they want to publicize and which they do not. From what I’ve seen, recent press releases are about incidents where the police did a good job. The post of police information officer was abolished. So much for transparency, which bothers me.

Note: An article in the Sunday 5-16 edition of the NYT also reported that nationwide, pathologists, coroners and police are working together to cover up police use of force against Black. They have found 47 cases in the past 25 years where the pathologist has said that a black person died from sickle cell anemia, not a beatings by the police, although many black bodies were bruised and had broken bones. In one incident, the police chased a black man in the forest, and a few minutes later dragged him outside. Neighbors saw that the officers’ pants were splattered with blood. Cause of death: sickle cell anemia.

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