A community columnist who ignores facts is a terrible journalist and has no business publishing.
Iíll apologize. Iím judging a writer on one column. Itís just like judging a police officer on one incident.
Itís just like presuming three youths are ďlaw-abidingĒ because the district attorney bent to political pressure and refused to prosecute. Itís similar to assuming a defendant is actually innocent because they were found not guilty.
Mr. Wachs has the right to opine on the arrest of three young men for disorderly conduct (ďBad cops must be bounced,Ē MPNnow.com by columnist Benjamin Wachs), and the dismissal of the charges against them as he did in his column. He doesnít, however, have the right to irresponsibly portray a police officer as racist. Mr. Wachsí condemnation of law enforcement as arrogant, minority-harassing, unprovoked civilian-killing people with guns and a sense of entitlement is reckless and unprofessional.
His column was biting, offensive, shallow and journalistically irresponsible. The mere sprinkling of disingenuous acknowledgements our jobs are difficult, does not make for a responsible treatise of the incident. Its underlying message incites. Mr. Wachsí view is one of the fundamental reasons police officers are disrespected, attacked and killed. Iím embarrassed for Messenger Post Newspapers for publishing the column.
Iíve been a police officer for 23 years. I was a local newspaper reporter for 10. I am an average cop at best. I was a good journalist. I have worked with, and have supervised both good and bad cops. As a union leader for 15 years, I have advocated for good cops. I have testified against bad cops. I understand immense responsibility comes with an editorial.
As a police instructor, Iíve been part of blending the best of both professions into the Public Information Officer course at the Monroe County Public Safety Training Facility. We bring reporters, producers, photographers and public safety officials together to train in how to best serve the public interest. Together.
We donít always agree on approach, but we treat each other with respect, and recognize the parallels between professions. Journalists and cops are all social engineers seeking the truth. Law enforcement is necessary for maintaining public order. The press is needed to keep government honest and act on behalf of our citizens. Both carry great responsibility.
Mr. Wachs needs to review The Society of Professional Journalistsí Code of Ethics. In the organizationís Preamble, ďProfessional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalistís credibility.Ē
The code of ethics purports, ďGive voice to the voiceless.Ē The RPD officer, whose actions remain endorsed by his police chief, is voiceless due to departmental regulations preventing his public comment. Between departmental review and unwarranted public flogging by ďactivistsĒ and politicians, he has been adversely affected by news coverage. The code calls for journalists to show compassion in such circumstances ó for which Mr. Wachs has shown none.
Page 2 of 2 - The code also states, ďEthical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect,Ē and ďJournalists should abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.Ē
Had Mr. Wachs bothered to check, he would have found no fewer than six police officers, including two command personnel, were present at the incident. It wasnít a snap decision. Departmental review determined the matter was handled appropriately.
The police officer Mr. Wachs denigrates has a family. He could be any cop. Whether man or woman, a police officer is human, could be your neighbor, a military veteran, parent, volunteer firefighter, business owner, lay clergy, or your kidsí coach. He or she is undoubtedly running to your aid whether youíre in a car accident, hostage situation, domestic matter, shooting, robbery, or some other type of victim.
A mile in our shoes, Mr. Wachs. Iíve walked in yours. Come walk in mine and those of my brothers and sisters. When you can say youíve handled any number of the distasteful duties we willing accept as police officers ó when youíve risked your life, saved another, arrested a criminal, fought for your life, collected bloody evidence, told a parent their child is dead, or buried a colleague killed in the line of duty ó only then will you have the right to judge us.
Someone here has lost their grip on their standards. And it wasnít the cops.
Hank Kula is a sergeant with the Greece Police Department and is vice president of the Greece Gold Badge Club, the labor union representing the 27 command personnel of the Greece Police Department.