Sunday, July 23, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Media ignores police assault questions

Durham City Police officers are accussed of involvement in an alleged assault outside a Raleigh sports bar just before midnight Thursday. The Associated Press today reports:

Raleigh police are investigating an alleged assault outside a sport bar that involved several Durham police officers, authorities said Saturday.

In addition to the criminal probe of Thursday's incident, Durham police Chief Steven Chalmers said in a statement his office is conducting an internal review. Chalmers' statement did not name the officers allegedly involved in the incident, citing department policy and state personnel privacy laws.
TV station WRAL reports:
Meanwhile, two investigators in the Duke lacrosse rape case had their jobs switched Friday, said Durham City Manager Patrick Baker. It's not clear if the changes, which involve temporarily placing two officers on administrative duty, are linked to the Raleigh assault investigation.

Baker, citing confidentiality rules involving personnel matters, would not link officers Sgt. Mark Gottlieb and R.D. Clayton to the assault investigation. […]

The 29-year-old alleged victim told WRAL that racial slurs were exchanged in the bar's parking lot before a group of men surrounded him.
After reading the AP and local media accounts of the incident (WRAL, News14, N&O and Dur. H-S) as of 4 p.m. Sunday, nearly three days after the incident, the public is left with lots of questions the “news organizations” haven’t asked, or at least haven’t reported on.
Why isn’t there a police report of the incident available?
Usually a preliminary report is written up at the scene of an incident (it can later be added to),and immediately made available to media and interested members of the public.

Such reports are almost always the basis of crime news stories, which often are aired by electronic media within an hour or two of the incident. You've often heard reporters lead with, “According to a police report I just obtained….”

So why, more than 60 hours after the alleged assault, are we being told there’s no police report? Why aren’t news organizations telling readers how unusual that is? Why aren’t news organizations demanding to know why there's no police report?

Media, which eagerly told us the tax value of Reade Seligmann’s parents’ home, are so far unwilling to ask Durham City Manager Patrick Baker and Durham City Police Chief Steve Chalmers a very, very important question; or if they’ve asked, they’re not telling the answer:
At the time of the incident, were the Durham Police officers on-duty or off-duty?
Usually when police are involved in an incident and are off-duty, that's one of the first things we're told.

Perhaps City Manager Baker will tell us “confidentiality rules involving personnel matters” forbid him from answering the question. But it’s surely worth asking, isn’t it?

Were the police just “relaxing” while off-duty? If that’s the case, I’ve no problem with their “relaxing” part of the evening. It's what happened in the parking lot that should concern us.

But if the police, or at least some of them, were on-duty, than many questions must be asked and should be quickly answered.

What were on-duty Durham City Police officers doing in a sports bar near midnight in another city and county?

Except in “hot pursuit” situations, it’s very unusual for members of a city police force from one county to operate in the jurisdiction of another city police force in another county.

When it does happen for legitimate reasons, there is always an extensive paper trail.

Higher ups in the department sign off on the activity. It’s documented that the officer(s) will be out of the jurisdiction which employs them and assumes liability for what they do in the line of duty.

“When,” “why” and “under what circumstances” documents are drawn and signed in multiple copies. If city owned vehicles are used, special authorization documents are signed, etc.

These and many other questions need follow up and prompt answers.
Why aren't news organizations asking them?


Anonymous said...

Well, while the N&O's coverage is undoubtedly something to be proud of, it really spent a lot of column inches today not saying much at all.

Give them props, they apparently asked about each of the investigating officers until they found two on desk duty. :-)

Can you see Mel's bumper sticker: My coverage is an honor student at J-School!


heartland said...

These are all excellent questions by John in Carolina. Isn't there a newspaper somewhere in North Carolina that will pursue these and other questions? What can the public do?

Anonymous said...

The N & O removed the racial epithets part of the story for some reason. When the story was first in the N & O, the racial part was in there, now it's gone.

The ABC story still has it.

Anonymous said...

Where have I seen that mark on an upper left bicep before???? Someone standing on a back porch, I think....

straightarrow said...

I am just soooooooo surprised that such a professional and integrity riddled department of po---lice could be involved in such simple-minded crap. NOT!

I don't expect DPD to do anything of consequence about it, nor will I hold my breath until the RPD applies the laws uniformly.

joan foster said...

John, it's about 3PM. Unless I have some glitch in my appears Melanie has removed the Duke thread with over 205 posts.

Erik Mann said...

great topic, keep up the great posts, MMA

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