Monday, July 11, 2011

Police chief furious at publication of dying cop's SOS call; wants apology

Publishing the words of a dying police officer as he lay trapped under an overturned minivan was an appalling breach of ethics and trust and could jeopardize the investigation into the death, the officer's chief says.
In a letter of complaint, York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe (pictured) called on media outlets to apologize to Const. Garrett Styles' family and remove the radio transmissions from their websites.
"The transmissions depict Const. Styles in obvious pain and distress," Jolliffe writes in his letter to the Ontario Press Council and Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
"I am, quite frankly, appalled that the media would post these audio recordings in such a callous fashion."
Several media outlets, including The Canadian Press, published or broadcast parts of Styles' call over his police radio.
Media outlets said the call was of compelling news interest and that they took great care in which parts they used.
None said they intended to apologize or remove the material from their websites.
"The Canadian Press believed the call to the dispatcher was an important part of the story of the death of the officer and that no account would be complete without some telling of it," said Scott White, editor-in-chief of the news service.
"In this case, Styles' professionalism and stoicism were evident in the recordings, and the public should know of that."
The CBC said it was "comfortable" with its handling of the material, which involved a heavily edited version of the transmissions.
"One of the things we take into account is sensitivity with regards to victims of crime," said Jeff Keay, a spokesman for the public broadcaster.
Stephen Ward, a Canadian journalism ethics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tended to side with Jolliffe about the emotional effect of using the transmission.

Planetguys comment: It appears that police in Canada would like the media to go away. The incident was tragic but it was news. The publication was no doubt hard on his family but so was his death. It's time for Canada's police chiefs to recognize freedom of the press.

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