Monday, November 30, 2015

In an instant

We are living in the age of instant, where the time involved in slapping two slices of bread and a Kraft single into a frying pan with a pat of butter seems so time consuming as to justify a product designed to speed the process.

Yesterday's big events in Lincoln--the City's first murder of 2015, and an officer involved shooting--were a reminder of just how quickly news spreads. Before I even got notified by the chief of the unfolding events, Twitter was already lighting up with live reports for the scene. Reporters were providing a blow-by-blow from their vantage point.

By the time I made it to police headquarters, the phone was ringing steadily in the duty commander's office. The captain decided to prioritize the 402 area code, and at least temporarily ignored the inbound calls from the 212 area code--those could wait. That's right, reporters from the east coast were already calling, before any of us any clear idea of what had transpired.

I recently overheard a reporter asking for details about an injury traffic crash to which no one had yet arrived! It's not all bad, though. I was getting some useful updates from those same tweets last night. Reassuring phone calls to and from spouses were speeded along, good wishes and prayers were being expressed with equal alacrity from all over the country, and even Larry the Cable Guy was tweeting positive thoughts within the hour.

A major incident like this is reminiscent of the story of the blind men and the elephant: many officers have a piece of the puzzle from their own perspective, but no one really has the complete picture. It has to be pieced together over time. More than 40 officers were involved in their own piece: collecting evidence, staffing a secure perimeter, transporting a subject, interviewing a witness, and so forth. A fair amount of the clock ticks off before all these minutia can be assembled into a coherent account of the events.

I've seen this happen so many times that it barely registers now. I have simply learned that the early reports will be fragmentary, and often wrong in some significant details. I was reflecting on this today during the regular daily police briefing, while the reporter sitting to my right Periscoped the proceedings live.

Patience is a virtue, as dynamic events eventually come into focus. But in the age of already-peeled orange segments, prepackaged peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and paper towels dampened in advance, it is still remarkable to sit back and think about how our culture has changed, and how much we expect things in an instant.

It is also remarkable to observe how unsupported assumptions, wild speculation, fantastical theories, naked conjecture, and scurrilous innuendo by amateur (and often anonymous) commentators compete for attention with the work of professional journalists--an endangered species these days.


Anonymous said...

One thing seems apparent to me: Gangs are becoming a problem in Lincoln. Many of them even advertise their affiliations with "face art".

I am a firm believer in the Ten Amendments to our Constitution commonly referred to as our Bill of Rights. I rank the Second Amendment as being the MOST important: followed closely by the First and Fourth. GANG tattoos would be a right guaranteed under the protections of the First Amendment. However when a person chooses to get a tattoo that identifies them as a member of a Criminal enterprise according to my reasoning they have given up some of their protections under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments (Search & seizure and self incrimination). Obviously I am not an attorney but I am curious: Are there Judicial rulings that allow "Gang Tattoos" to be used as "probable cause" to do a search?

Gun Nut

Steve said...

Good question, Gun Nut. I realize not everyone with tattoos is a criminal, but if you've ever visited the jail, or perused the mug shots, you might come to the conclusion that all criminals have tattoos. Therefore, it's only logical that someone would view people with tattoos with an extra bit of skepticism.

I want to add that I'm glad the police involved in the recent shooting were not too seriously injured, and I hope they both feel better soon.

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut,

No. You have a Constitutional right to belong to a gang. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, both guaranteed by the First Amendment would apply. You do not, however, have a right to commit crimes, conspire to commit crimes, act as an accomplice to a crime, serve as an accessory after the fact, intimidate a witness, suborn perjury, and so forth. Gang or not, if you engage in these activities, your business is our business!

Anonymous said...

"reporters from the east coast were already calling, before any of us any clear idea of what had transpired"

This being a police shooting, my cynical nature has me betting that the journos were hoping for something they didn't get in this case as far as the physical description of the deceased was concerned.

Anonymous said...

The good ole Constitution. Written by white guys wearing wigs who owned slaves and looked down upon women.

Anonymous said...

I read the last paragraph of this post and had to chuckle. I'm not sure if you consider a talk show host a professional journalist, but I heard Chris Baker the other day talking about medical marijuana and making some, what I considered, valid points.

Then he goes on to talking about minors and "sexting". It was obvious he had no concept of the issue and I doubt he has ever read the state statute dealing with this or even talked to a prosecutor about it. After those uninformed statements I had to go back and question he comments about the first issue.

I wouldn't trust the news media to tell a complete accurate story under any circumstances.