Police and the Media: Part 1

o-MEDIA-facebookby Bruce Felton

It’s a relationship played out in movies and TV shows over and over again:  A cat and mouse game of hide and seek where police try to “protect” information from the media, while the media tries to catch the police hiding information.  And yes, while there have been real-life instances of inappropriate behavior on both sides, is the relationship really that adversarial?  And, more importantly, does it need to be?

I have been the Public Information Officer (PIO) off and on for about six years.  During that time I have interacted with journalists, television news anchors and reporters, news radio personalities, assignment editors, and camera operators.  What I have found to be the common denominator with the vast majority of these individuals is that they are very much like myself and the people I work with.  Whether they are young and brimming with excited ambition about their new career, or a little older and hitting their stride in their profession; or even getting close to retirement and thinking about the time they will spend with their grandchildren, they have a job to do and are trying to do it the best they can.  For the most part there is no evil agenda, or malicious intent, or even rude behavior.  They’re just people attempting to complete tasks, meet deadlines, satisfy their bosses, and go home.

Police departments are great hoarders of information.  We collect information about everything, and we keep it in the event it helps us in the future.  That information may help us solve a crime, find a missing person, or provide valuable information about trends that affect crime and society.  It must always be remembered that we are merely stewards of this information and that it belongs to the public, not the police.  So while there may be some exceptions, we have a responsibility to make that information available.  Largely it is the media, in all of its forms, that provides a vehicle to deliver that information to the public.  This all works best when law enforcement and the media work in concert to communicate to the public that information which may enlighten, educate, inform and yes, at times, entertain them.  An effective PIO for a police department works to establish and maintain relationships within the media so that this can effectively take place, thereby serving everyone’s interests.

 

Many are very critical of the style and delivery of the media today.  I will address this issue and give my thoughts about it in a future article in Part 2 of this series.

9/11

By Jay Bender

Few other dates in American history so clearly represent such a dramatic change in our national identity. For the people of this country, September 11, 2001, reminded us that no border or ocean can keep us free from hate. It changed not only how we see the world, but how we see ourselves.

Yet in those hours of terror, the nation also witnessed tremendous sacrifice. The selfless courage of the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center will be forever linked to the horrible events of that day. When the towers came down, we knew there were hundreds of police officers and firefighters who died not because of chance, but because of choice.

For those of us who were already serving our communities or our nation, it helped reaffirm our dedication to protecting those who cannot protect themselves. For many of our younger officers, 9/11 was the event that drew them to military service and law enforcement. It was a day that re-defined who we are as a nation, and to some extent, who we are as profession.

 

Crime Prevention Corner: Know Your Scams

by Steve Wagner

Recently, while on my way to work, I received an excited call from my wife. She had called to tell me that we had just received a cashier’s check for $2,850. I asked her who it was from and she stated that it did not have a payee on the front, “but it is drawn on US Bank and it looks legit.” I then asked her to look at what it was sent in. It was sent in a USPS priority mail envelope from a well respected company. I asked her why they would send her a check. Her voice lost its excitement as she knew where my questions were headed and she despondently said, “I can’t think of any reason why they would send me a check.” She ended the conversation by saying, “you’re no fun.”

While I may have been a buzzkill to my wife, the fact of the matter is I saved us from a nearly $3,000 mistake by cashing that check. Sure, my bank may have eventually refunded me the money, but the hassle involved is simply not worth it. Why was my wife chosen to receive a fraudulent check? I’m not sure, but it is one of the many scams that are currently going around now.

Scam artists are in it for their own profit and it does not matter to them how much harm they may do to you. I find it helpful to ask the type of questions as I did above:

  • Why am I receiving this check?
  • Do I know who it is that is sending me this check?
  • Where was it sent from?
  • Is the check drawn on a respected bank?

A true cashiers check will contain the following information at a minimum: A payee, an address, a phone number, and some sort of a security measure such as a watermark. Fraudulent check makers are becoming more sophisticated and often the checks look very genuine. To appease my wife, I actually went to a US Bank and provided them with the check before cashing or depositing it. They were able to verify that the check did not belong to a valid US Bank account and thus the check was fraudulent.

I have compiled a list of current scams that are happening all around the country at this point. This is just a very small sample and scam artists are changing their methods on a daily basis. Should you wish to get more information on the current scams, a good website to visit is the Federal Trade Commission.  You may also sign up to receive alerts via text or email from the website as well.

Craigslist scams – Purchaser will offer a check for more than the item is being sold for and ask you to cash the check and give them the additional funds. The check is written on a closed or fraudulent account.

Employment scams – Employers will state that you can work online from home to earn money. They will send you an “advancement” check and tell you to purchase supplies through their vendors. Their vendors are actually them and they have essentially laundered money through you by providing you with a fraudulent check.

Loan refinancing or vehicle warranty purchase – This method is used in several different scenarios. You will receive a call offering a service such as a mortgage refinance or a vehicle warranty, etc. They will obtain a tremendous amount of your personal information including a social security number and then ask for a credit card to pay for a fee. Tip:  NEVER give out any information to someone who contacts you directly and be very leery of providing anyone personal information over the phone unless it is a trusted and known source. Most reputable companies will not ask for your personal information.

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