I’d like to begin this with two observations.
The first is that I have difficulty tolerating “The Media” in general (insert collective gasps of surprise here.) I find it vapid and uninterested in the truth, more often than not. I believe it panders to people’s emotions rather than serving as a vehicle of fact as it portrays itself to be, and I think it does so for two reasons:
One, the emotion “sells.” Two, researching facts requires investigation, and investigation costs money … and you would be shocked at just how cheap news organizations really are, and how poorly paid their rapidly dwindling staffers are. (Like cops, they don’t have to pay people too much to do something they really love.)
The second observation is the fact that I work for the newspaper you are holding (or surfing), making this both ironic and hypocritical.
This is all a bit dramatic of me, but consider my perspective: The truth means more to cops than most people. Police work, at its essence, is a search for the truth (and free coffee, but that’s another story). Even justice is secondary to that; that is the purview of the judiciary—we just start it in motion. But truth? When another business treats it like a punch line it offends a cop’s senses. Particularly when cops themselves are being used as those punch lines, as is the case here.
On the national platform, I think we’re seeing what has happened to the Trayvon Martin bandwagon that is losing wheel after wheel on its increasingly treacherous journey.
At the least, a veteran police chief lost his job simply for being employed that morning. His department actually wanted to arrest the accused shooter, and their district attorney’s office refused, but he was fired after a no-confidence vote by their city council nevertheless. And at its worst, in my opinion, we have seen the president of the United States further fan fires of rage by taking a side without the facts, rather than expressing wishes of peace and healing as a president should.
Parasites like the good Revs. Jackson and Sharpton are irrelevant to me; they are lampreys selling a product people have already bought or rejected. Nothing new there. But a sitting president pandering to race rather than bringing peace because it’s an election year? That’s damage. And with previously unreleased pictures of Mr. Zimmerman’s bleeding head and the description of his back being wet as if someone was straddling him while beating his head into the pavement … I’m not seeing as many “Hoodie Occupations” now all of a sudden. Release of those photos (part of the investigation usually reserved only for court) hasn’t quite turned the tide, but the waters are definitely a lot calmer now and we have had “white Hispanic” added to our lexicon of race-baiting canon, to boot.
On the local level, we have a gambler shot for pointing a pistol at a cop while fleeing a police raid. This has gone from what it was, to a young, unarmed man trying to make a living as a caterer who was shot for “no reason whatsoever” after he was forced to run for his life while no doubt looking for a church to pray in or a child that needed to learn to read.
The investigation of a police-involved shooting of a suspect is as large, if not larger, than you can imagine. Releasing facts and evidence of such a case prior to trial is as rare as an attractive hooker in Chattanooga, but seeing what has unnecessarily erupted in Sanford, Fla., Chattanooga’s police chief has done just that: Shown evidence to local media members.
While they were not allowed to record or otherwise release the video (lest our own district attorney blow a proverbial gasket), representatives of the majority of the local media were given a full hour to digest a five-minute video of the entire incident from start to finish that literally contradicted everything that was being said about the event from family members and even gamblers present that night themselves, including the notion that he was even a caterer that night.
As of press time I believe we have hit the 30 mark for black-on-black shootings in this town (including the white cop and black suspect in this gambling incident), and some major events in the future such as the Bessie Smith Strut that have the local African-American community seething over its initial cancellation because of these shootings. So rather than let it fester, the chief had the guts to put a pin in that balloon and pop it rather than let this wound fester from infectious gossip and outright lies.
I’m not impressed by the responses of most of those who viewed the video (in fact, only local radio host Jeff Styles and Times Free Press reporter Beth Burger gave an actual account of what they saw, while the broadcast outlets missed the point completely by only quoting the chief), but he did it. He rolled the dice and proactively reacted to this thing, and that just doesn’t happen. And to you other chiefs, and future police chiefs out there: I believe it worked.
The truth. How sad that it is now a novel concept—but it does indeed sometimes work.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.