Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Memory, the media and law enforcement

Good day everyone,

The media nowadays often as a tendency to sensationalize distort slightly and misquote to create a web of quasi truth that can withstand the first glance and even the subtle inquiry yet falls when the weight of evidence is laid upon it. The law enforcement officers are here to protect and serve, to make sure that laws are upheld, yet we entrusted them to do so with a power that can easily be abused or at the very least misused.

Today my focus falls on a local situation that I heard on a radio station, while waiting for them to give a traffic update. In this event both aforementioned groups have a key role in the story, which started (according to the article) when a couple were stopped by police for having overly tinted windows. The woman was asked for Id, she refused and when the officer asked her to get out of the car, she refused, they tried to force her out and that’s when she bit the said officer. The article goes on to make a good synthesis of both the police and miss Spring’s side, and things seem like they are all well rounded, yet the structure of the statements give a penchant to the police force, not questioning most of the points brought by the spokesman.

As I listened to the radio, a caller rang in and it was the lady herself, miss Spring. She started telling her side of the story; especially how what had been said by the police spokesperson was erroneous. Her 5 year old child WAS wearing her safety belt, she was sitting at the back of the car next to her younger child who was also in a car seat, and she only started breastfeeding once the car was stopped. She also mentioned that she was never asked for Id and would have gladly given it if asked.

Albeit this being a dangerous topic to thread on, especially with tensions having been quite high following the Villanueva affaire, my point here is more on the form then the subject, where I want to ask, was the reporting of this incident thorough enough and what of the account of the accused, was it detailed enough? One relies on the media (news papers, radio) and the media agents of the police (PR representative), while the other relies on testimonial evidence (memory of who things happened to). Both have weaknesses and therefore, neither strengthen their case, but to illustrate what I mean, let me tell you about what happened to me personally.

Yes, this is testimonial evidence, the irony is not lost on me, and in fact I revel in it. When I was youg..er, me and my friend participated in a model rocket launching contests. With my home made rocket, which I’ll admit looked a bit odd, I set a height record and my friend, with his store bought rocket, won the main technical contest. Seeing how two of the winners were friends, a reporter from one of the major news papers in the Montreal area, decided to interview us both for his youth/tech piece. We were more then pleased to answer the many questions that were thrown at us and awaited the article’s publication like ravenous news paper eating rats. The crucial day came and, when we both laid eyes on what was going to be the center piece of all our conversations for the next month or so, our faces fell. The reporter, took MY height record, attributed it to my friend, failed to mention me by name or my friends victory and to top it all off used some random guy’s rocket for the picture in the article. It was my first taste of the intricate world of reporting…sadly it would not be the last.

In any case, I believe the overall article was not horrific in it’s content but might have wanted to push more on both sides to have a better outlook of the story, and the police officers who’s responsibility is to diffuse situations might have wanted to handle this differently, but in the end I was not there and even if I would have been… would I have recollected the events accurately?

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