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VIB is proud to feature commentary from author Kenneth Brooks


ken_bw.jpg     Ethicalego Speaks

Ethicalego (Kenneth Brooks) discusses current events from a critical thinking perspective rarely expressed elsewhere


Censoring news reports from sympathy still is biased news reporting

 

By Kenneth Brooks

ethicalego.com

March 26, 2009

 

Five people are dead from violence in Oakland, California. Four are police officers and the fifth is the person who shot them. This news left me in shocked numbness similar to what I felt when an industrial accident killed my co-workers. A natural first reaction is sorrow and sympathy for the victims and their families. Nevertheless, journalists have a duty to step outside personal feeling to examine and report this incident as thoroughly as possible.

 

Most news accounts I read seemed like an Oakland Police Department’s public relations officer wrote them rather than independent journalists. I do not mean to imply they mistreated the image of asserted killer Lovelle Mixon. Frankly, I do not know how they could have done this given Mixon’s history of violence, the recent killings and DNA evidence linking him to the rape of a child. His family apologized for him, but pleaded to the public not to think of him as a monster. Obviously, they are in shock and failed to see how Mixon even victimized them in the end. Probably he did much of his life.

 

Mixon had the choice after shooting the first two police officers to get into his car and drive away, or to run in a different direction. Nevertheless, he chose to involve his sister in his self-instigated drama of doom by running to her apartment to hide. Probably, narcissism characterized him all his adult life.

 

No, I did not expect the local news organizations to find redeeming qualities in someone who displayed none. Nevertheless, I did expect them to question how this incident happened. The circumstances calls for an explanation how two police officers lost control over a suspect, so that he shot and killed both without either of them firing a shot. I did not read or hear any news reporter ask this direct question to police officials. They did have him under control if news reports are true that they stopped him and were checking a report on his driver’s license.

Mostly, reporters asked various police spokespersons vague questions about possible errors in procedure on the street and by SWAT in the apartment building. Those spokespersons never answered the question in interviews that I saw. Usually, they responded that SWAT Officers were among the elite group of officers on the force and well trained. This is an appeal to authority and not an answer. In all interviews I saw, the news reporter accepted this answer without a follow-up question. Presumably, they tread lightly out of respect for the police officers families and the Oakland Police Department. This was a mistake, because journalists have the duty to report the circumstances of a significant event and not to self-censor news to protect the feelings of any group.

 

Notably different are approaches to airplane disasters that kill many people. Independent agencies begin their investigation right away. They search for all possible causes for the accident and report them without regard for hurt feelings. They do this to learn if equipment fault or human error caused the crash. This allows the responsible agency to correct the problem and prevent more accidents from the same cause. The same thinking should apply to tragic events like this that occurred under the control of government agents like police officers.

 

Mixon’s gunfire on the street endangered the public besides killing two police officers. Therefore, an independent investigation must learn if a faulty traffic stop procedure or human error allowed Mixon to gain control over that traffic stop. We need this investigation, prodded by the press if necessary, to protect the lives of police officers and public members.