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Police and Law Enforcement Home    >    Editorials    >    Anti-Law Enforcement Bias Alive and Well in New Jersey


Police and
Law Enforcement News




Anti-Law Enforcement Bias Alive and Well in New Jersey
Police and Law Enforcement News
Monday, December 9, 2013  4:47 p.m.


The facts - as released so far -  are as follows:

On Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at approximately 1:18 p.m. Perth Amboy Police were dispatched to a Hall Avenue home for a report of a 32-year-old man acting violently.  The caller was the man's mother.  The Middlesex County Prosecutor issued a press release which describes what happened next:

The investigation further determined that Rodriguez [the suspect] stepped outside of his home and, as the two officers were talking with him, he suddenly raised his right arm, with a knife in his right hand. While holding the knife, he punched the female police officer in the head, and tackled her to the ground.  Both officers then fired at Rodriguez. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:50 p.m.

Investigators subsequently retrieved a chef’s knife with a five-inch-long blade from the right hand of Rodriguez.

According to reports, the altercation was recorded by a nearby security camera, and the video corroborates the officers' account of the incident. 

In covering this story, a media outlet could go several different ways with the headline.  Perhaps, "Knife Wielding Man Shot by Police."  Maybe even, "Officers Take Down Armed Man." went a different way:

Perth Amboy Community Stunned After
Special Needs Man Gunned Down by Police

Simply, that is not an accurate depiction of what happened. 

At best, this headline is reckless. 

At worst, it is an outright, sensationalistic exaggeration of a tragic incident in order to bolster readership. 

At worst, it is a cheap effort to capitalize on a man's death by instigating and fueling community outrage and keeping the public tuned in for the next article.

Gangsters gun people down.  Hitmen gun people down. 

"Gunned down" is not a term that responsible news outlets use to describe the actions of police officers or at least police officers acting under color of authority.  A news search of the quoted term yields hundreds of results, and almost every one of those cases involved a person being shot by gang members, criminals, or terrorists.

The term "special needs" presents the man out of context.  The officers didn't gun down a special needs man.  They acted in self defense against an armed man, period. 

There was a time where those who practiced journalism held their profession in such high regard.  They carefully chose their words and wouldn't think of compromising the standards of accuracy and objectivity.  Evidently, those days are gone at least in some newsrooms.

This headline paints these officers as cold assassins.  And each day, as the investigation progresses, we learn more about what happened: these officers bravely battled an armed and possibly mentally ill man. 

They may have saved the life of the man's mother or someone else on the street that day. 

We don't expect the media to be our friend.  They have a job to do and sometimes that runs contrary to our interests. We're fine with that, but we do expect fair reporting and for them to get the story right. 

Media outlets that engage in such misleading reporting should be cut off from all proactive press releases (department, PBA, FOP events, etc.) and given just name, rank, and serial number in response to inquiries.  We will, of course, fulfill our obligation but nothing more.

Police departments can fill a lot of column inches in newspapers.   Access to stories and our media personnel is currency.  We need to start spending this currency more wisely.

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