Police and the media have an interesting game going.
A friend at City TV has mentioned that even that station, considered a boffo booster of the boys and gals in blue, is having trouble getting the coppers to release info. He’s not talking about weeding secrets out of careful police officers who are likely to hold on to that favour in trade for next time. We’re talking about the basics: The simple fact-checking of who was charged with what and when.
Xtra tried to get the names of the men charged in the Bijou raids. Some cops refused point blank. Others said it would “take time” to get the info. Hogwash. Just three years ago, civilian employees would look something up for reporters in a computerized database instantaneously.
Now, we get a big zero.
There was a time when gay men and lesbians would have sounded a big huzzah for cops holding on to this info.
Remember when reporters would demand the names of men caught with their pants down? And print them? There were suicides.
Now, homos screaming about police being overly handy with info has come back to kick us in the pants. The police seem to hang on to everything unless it’s been okayed through long lists of bureaucracy.
Communications management has become a big deal. We all know that community policing is going down the drain. But the coppers are determined to make themselves look good.
On Oct 22, Xtra received six press releases from the cops. One was about a crime the public should know about (a sexual assault in the Wilson and Keele area – the sort of thing that it took Jane Doe’s court case to get released to the community). One was about a missing person. That leaves four happy stories or public relations gimmicks (a parade, a 10k run, some training exercises…).
There’s nothing in my file from Oct 23 and 24. The city sleeps soundly. The next day brought a trifle.
On Oct 26, there were five gimmicks. The Maple Leafs, some awards, a traffic tutorial for kids. The Crime Stoppers Crime Of The Week arrived. It’s a regular feature in most media outlets, where we become agents of the state and, without question, run press releases in their entirety. You get an award for participation. (Xtra got one – we always run appeals for help about the disappearance or murder of hookers.)
Crime? News of a fraud, and the backgrounder for a press conference announcing the arrest of the alleged killer of Hugh Sinclair, a 72-year-old antiques dealer who lived at 44 Charles St W.
The next day, two more bits of fluff arrive.
On Oct 28, three happy stories and a home invasion.
Oct 29 brings a handful more crime notices, again outnumbered by suggested stories on how swell the cops are. And lord preserve us, the police sent out something on a corporation’s stationary – doing PR for a school bus company buying in to a Halloween safety patrol. Now my tax dollars are schilling for Laidlaw Transit Co.
More than a million bucks on targeted policing when the crime rate is down. A police union that holds up progressive changes in the force. A community policing strategy that’s collapsing.
Cops have real PR worries. But they’re taking care of it – through their Corporate Communications department. Think… happy.
What a mess.
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Eleanor Brown is Managing Editor for Xtra.