Thursday, September 25, 2008

Your criticism is duly noted

I received an anonymous letter while I was away. I feel it needs an immediate response, and this is the best way I can think of to do so, thus I am breaking my normal practice of not blogging at work, and not blogging twice in the same day. It begins like this:

"Dear Chief:

I am a public official and therefore cannot sign this letter. However, I wanted you to know that as a citizen it is absolutely abhorrent to me that the police are promoting and assisting MTV in filming arrests and our officers in the line of duty. I suspect that it takes some coordination and planning with your office, which seems particularly inappropriate."

The letter goes on at length to question my actions in allowing a production crew from the MTV show Busted to accompany our officers. It was copied to the Mayor's office, the chair of the City Council, and the Lincoln Journal Star. I would gladly respond directly to the sender regarding all the questions, were it not for the fact that the author is unknown.

I have been contacted on many occasions by "reality" TV shows, and always rejected their proposals. When the company that produces Busted telephoned, I was prepared to do the same thing, but I hesitated due to the nice work of the representative that phoned. She overnighted two episodes on disc to me, and I crawled the web doing my own research. The following day, much to my own surprise, I was convinced that this would be a worth considering. I was impressed that the episodes, while appealing to a youthful audience, contained positive portrayals of police officers, and essentially had an important message for viewers about the consequences of one's actions.

During the spring semester of 2008, an advanced marketing class at the University of Nebraska School of Journalism produced two exceptional marketing campaigns for the Lincoln Police Department, as their semester project. The campaigns focused on improving our recruitment. Both "teams" noted the importance of our online materials, stressing the need for more interactive and fast-paced material. This is exactly what attracted me to the opportunity to host the production company for a potential episode of Busted. The audience is in our target age demographic, and the episodes show real police officers going about their work in a very human fashion. I thought that these videos were exactly the kind of things the marketing students had been suggesting.

Before I agreed to this project, I played two episodes of Busted at our weekly management staff meeting. Like me, I think everyone was skeptical. But after watching the show, the consensus was strong that this was a project that could benefit us. I still feel that way. I also checked with the administrative aide to the Mayor who is responsible for liaison with the police department. I knew that this was something that should be approved by the Mayor's office, and I sought and received that approval.

There is no secret here. We have nothing to hide, and no reason to be concerned if a TV crew films us working, so long as they are out of harms way and not interfering with our functions. People on the street are doing it all the time with hand-held video cameras and with cell phone cameras. This production crew is experienced in working with several other law enforcement agencies. They know how to keep clear, where they should and should not go, and what they can and cannot do. The officers who have hosted them have reported no problems in this regard.

The Busted crew was on a ride along last week when a critical incident occurred. The anonymous letter implies a relationship between the ride along and the incident. The fact that the crew was along with the officer played no part whatsoever in this tragic event. The crew stayed behind at his vehicle, and the people involved in the incident were entirely unaware of their presence. There was no video footage, but the officer was wearing a wireless microphone that accurately recorded the audio portion of the events in excellent quality. This is a fortunate accident, as this recording will doubtless be probative in the legal proceedings that emerge from the incident.

In response to the other questions posed: two members of the department were assigned as liaisons to the Busted crew, which does it's ride alongs with regular on-duty officers during their shift; no remuneration is given or received by LPD; Busted carries their own insurance; we have both communications and signed agreements on pertinent matters; the officers follow our normal written general orders; no advance law enforcement information is provided to the crew; we exercise no editorial control over their material, and they are on their own to seek or obtain releases from citizens they may film. I hope this answers the questions posed by the anonymous public official who authored the letter.

13 comments:

JIM J said...

Anonymous public official?
Most public officials would not hide the signature. If a person would hide the signature, what is the point of making an issue of being a person of official status?
I think you were duped. An anonymous pen pusher would not be a surprise. Look at the number of invertebrates we have elected and I guess it is possible that you have a moldy one. I would check behind the toilet for a half of a sandwich. (have to be a blog reader to get that part)

Anonymous said...

The letter is from one of the following.........
house fly, mosquito, flea, louse, mite, chigger, bedbug, ant, silverfish, earwig, mealybug, cricket, grub, cockroach, termite, carpenter ant, fire ant, centipede, millipede, tick, botfly, screw-worm fly, leaf hopper, aphid, codling moth, peachtree borer, Japanese beetle, Colorado beetle, grain beetle, corn borer, boll weevil, San Jose scale, oyster shell scale, squash bug, peach moth, gypsy moth, hawk moth, wasp, wireworm, cutworm, tent caterpillar, plum curculio, pear slug, tomato slug, mouse, rat, gopher, prairie dog, woodchuck, groundhog, rabbit, mole, WEASEL, coyote, hawk

Anonymous said...

I have been watching the show “Busted” for a few weeks now. I have never been a fan of the show Cops, or any other law enforcement shows.
I do agree with the Chief on this one.
The show Busted does a great job. They interview the victim after he/she is arrested and has time to look back and realize his/her mistake. They will not make Lincoln look like a bad city to live in. I'm excited to see it air on MTV. I will make sure to have the DVR set to record this one.
Great Job LPD

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem the anonymous public official probably had was that it was MTV. You know, all those pot smoking kids and their rock and/or roll, wearing hats indoors with their baggy pants too low. Punks....

WannaWatchIt said...

When does it air on MTV?

Anonymous said...

Did the contract with MTV allow LPD to retain absolute, final editorial control? By the way, 3:33, baggy/saggy pants don't click with rock music, but rather more urban types of so-called "music". It all springs from the "we guess your size" (erring on the large side) jeans issued at the LA County Jail. Wearing saggy jeans out on the street was a way to show street cred, sending a message that you were a bad guy that had been to LACJ and weren't to be messed with. Either that, or advertising that one had been a rent-boy for all takers in their cell block.

In any case, I've no idea if it was a public official who wrote said letter, but we can be pretty sure that it wasn't an elected public official. Anyone slogging for votes would never hesitate to take advantage of public controversy, in order to keep their name out there.

Tom Casady said...

6:24

No, no editorial control provision. The only protection here is their short track record with actual episodes. I realized it was a slight risk that they would change courses, but everything carries risks of one kind or another, and I thought this was both a minimal risk and an acceptable one. If I'm wrong, I'll eat the crow.

Anonymous said...

So, you're saying that the result of this MTV Busted deal is that there is now a high-quality audio recording of the officer, victim, and deceased, and that this audio was recorded by a television production company independently of the police, who have a vested interest in anything juicy that they might have recorded, and who presumably also listened to the feed live? Wouldn't this recording clearly indicate any threats, warnings, conversations, and so forth that took place?

anon 3:33 said...

@ anon 6:24

I know that and you know that but the anonymous public official probably doesn't know that since he/she probably hasn't ever watched MTV in his/her life but is just jumping to conclusions. He/she probably hates hippies too.

Anonymous said...

Kudos Chief. I applaud your vision.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:35-
Yes, that's what he said-

Anonymous said...

I think that the show is an absolute abomination. Kids make mistakes, and this show is simply out to make a mockery out of kids who need the most support. The show captures kids at their absolute worst moments. Kids make mistakes, and they can suffer the consequences, but shame on the Lincoln police for allowing it to be broadcast to the world.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what better way to teach a kid a lession for something like a MIP then putting his or her face all over the media, which includes the internet, and low and behold, who looks at the internet? Almost all employers and schools, and I'll tell you what, theres nothing I like more than ruining a childs life for a minor infraction.

*Sarcasim very much intended*