Police Shooting Propaganda Manual
April 29, 2014
Update: Today, after this was published, another dead body was found and then SPD shot and killed someone near the dead body scene this afternoon. Well, we know how the press coverage will pan out over the next few days … read on … oh wait, the SPD PIO was a witness to this shooting, … Welcome Bloomsday runners and walkers – yes, Spokane is a crime ridden mess. Oh well.
Every time there is an officer involved shooting, the public relations is predictable:
- Make a statement about the person shot – he or she failed to comply with repeated orders, was seen as a threat, and was shot (and usually killed).
- Over the next few days, dribble out information confirming the person shot was obviously a bad guy who deserved it. Probably on drugs, mentally ill, ex con. Impugn the subject’s reputation by press release. Never say a positive word about the deceased.
- Make a statement that we should wait for the official investigation before passing judgement on the officer’s actions (but ignore it when it comes to making statements about the deceased).
- Days later, release a press release with the officers’ names, their extensive training, awards, commendations, and their gold stars. Elevate them to pure saint hood.
Works every time. Very predictable.
The Sheriff issued a press release giving a one line bio for a deputy who has his own “topics” page at the local newspaper. No attempt was made to hide the obvious propaganda spin.
With another shooting, the PR spin went down the usual path:
- Police Chief Straub made a statement about how the suspect was given multiple commands from the police after stepping outside and the PD opened fire because they feared for their safety.
- Then a video surfaced showing a different situation than what the Police Chief described. (See our analysis of the video and audio track).
- The SPD dribbled out information about the suspect’s background: he’s a burglar, he’s had drug problems, he’s served time, he’s had mental health issues, he probably committed robberies.
- Then go for the kill: obviously the suspect was a bad guy who deserved and wanted to die! Local TV says he left a “suicide note” and quotes from a heroin-addict friend who “thinks” the suspect did not want to continue on. A TV station photographs the suspect’s note – this would usually be evidence withheld from the court of public propaganda. (The SR refers to the note as an “apology letter” which seems accurate.).
KREM.COM goes straight to the punch:
KHQ.COM finds the friend who says “he wanted to die”:
THEREFORE, we can pat ourselves on the back and thank the police for executing the suspect. He was, after all, a low life, mentally ill, heroin addicted ex-con who wanted to die anyway – so no problem. He got what he deserved and what he obviously wanted. A comment says “Sounds like a bunch of losers living in a house. The guy got what he deserved, quit defending the criminal.” Let’s pat ourselves on the back for another well deserved street execution! Hip hip hooray! Drinks all around!
Days later, we get the usual press release with the officer’s names, awards, commendations, training, medals, gold stars and saint hood.
- “just adds to the public’s perception that the cops are trying to make a case that this was “Suicide by Cop” before the case is even investigated”
- I can picture the perceptions and attitudes changing with every news story, and the local news media is as complicit in this cover-up attempt as anybody could be.”Oh, he was a drug offender”
“Oh, he wrote a note that said he wasn’t going to prison”
“Oh, he came out with a gun in his hand”.
Yep, he got what he deserved. Cops are just doing their job.
No need for a court. Saved us a lot of money, etc.”
- How…given Straub’s comments…the questionable release of evidence to the media…a previous OIS case where a cop before the investigation was completed basically said in a sworn affidavit it was “Suicide by Cop”…does any cop expect the public to believe that OIS investigations aren’t bias?
Time To Rethink Police Shootings
There is zero question in my mind or most anyone’s mind that there is a need for police to shoot to kill in many situations. Both of the above situations were likely examples of those cases. But those events are not the point of this post.
The problem is we view these shootings as good outcomes! He deserved to die! He wanted to die! Yay! Let’s go have a party!
He probably wanted “suicide by cop”. This assertion of “suicide by cop” is common after OIS incidents – but it is just an assertion that goes along with excited delirium, a medical condition that exists solely in people in a fight with police. Both have become code phrases to justify a killing. Many of the “suicide by cop” claims are just a pop culture meme to justify shootings – rarely proven and definitely not a good outcome.
All of this is sick beyond measure.
In Spokane, each time a suspect is shot dead and no police officers are harmed, it is treated as a positive outcome. (Seriously, I do not want any police officers hurt. Ever.)
But we need to change our mindset – dead bodies are a sign of failure, not success.
We will not see a reduction as long as we view killings as a successful and desired outcome.
Is it possible to stop so many killings? NYPD used to kill 100 people a year but with improved training they cut that to about one-tenth to one-fifth that number. Yes, it is possible.
But until we change our mindset, the killings will continue.
The need for change is recognized elsewhere:
- Justice Department offers 40 recommendations to reduce Metro officer involved slayings (the Spokane Use of Force report mentions this one specifically)
- Handling Officer Involved Shootings
- Study of St. Louis police shootings recommends transparency, training
- Fatal shooting of [unarmed] double amputee [in a wheelchair] spars call for reform at HPD
Until the SPD changes its mindset and adopts a new approach, the killings will continue, law enforcement will respond with the usual and predictable propaganda spin, and more people will die due to “suicide by cop” and “excited delirium”.
This post is not opposed to police shootings, as required. This post is about the propaganda spewed forth and lapped up – propaganda designed so that readers and viewers will relax in their easy chair and conclude “Good thing the police shot and killed this thug – he not only deserved to die, he wanted to die!”
That is a sign of a sick community and media. Look back at the killing of Otto Zehm or Quentin Dodd. Then look at how the NYPD drastically reduced officer involved shootings with a different approach and new training methods. The fundamental issue is that police killings need to viewed as failures (yes, many are justified) – and not viewed as successful outcomes.
Until the SPD and the community recognize these shootings for what they are – a sad failure – not a success – the shootings will continue. The media must stop playing along with this game – but press release reporting is easy so they continue to play along.
If you do not get what this about, read the full Use of Force Commission Report. Nearly every propaganda statement issued by the SPD after the murder of innocent Otto Zehm was a lie. The SPD hid and withheld evidence that contradicted their public statements. To this day, the SPD continues to spin and engage in propaganda. And that is a serious problem.
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