Lack of Due Diligence in Media’s Reporting of Excessive Police Force

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By: Kirk Kitzul

Re: VIDEO via CBC:
B.C. RCMP officer investigated after violent arrest caught on tape

“Last week we were the first to bring you the story of disturbing allegations against a Terrace RCMP officer.” This is how the anchor opens the clip in the link above. He isn’t speaking about the RCMP officer addressed in the title of the story. Instead, the anchor references CBC’s own glory in having been the first to tell Canadians about an instance of police violence that occurred the week prior. One of the main rules you’ll hear reinforced by any journalist is to lead with what is the latest news, certainly not what happened “last week.” They don’t call it the news for any other reason. As for the self-referencing, the second element from Kovach and Rosenstiel’s “The Elements of Journalism” says:  [Journalism’s] first loyalty is to citizens. Citizens, not itself.

Continuing from that first sentence, the “disturbing allegations” regard a “brutal jail cell take-down that left a man permanently brain damaged.” Here I find even more problems. To begin, allegations do not, and will never, equate to actions. The actions, herein relegated to the second sentence, should always come before the allegations, charges or accusations. Continuing, there is a disproportionate use of descriptor words when it comes to the attack and the man who was attacked. The man is simply referred to as “a man” whereas the attack has a layered, three-part description: Brutal / jail cell / take-down.

Brutal refers to the excessive degree of violence and this is great, because, quite frankly, the attack is incredibly violent. Yet while this adjective is good, it is directly followed by jail, a location that not only has negative connotations but is foreign to the majority of society. A jail cell is seen in movies and TV shows, rarely in real life. Society says someone in jail is a ‘criminal’ and criminals are ‘bad.’ Jails (and jail cells) are scary places where rape and violence regularly occur… at a safe distance from society, you know, ‘outside.’ Take-down sounds like a phrase more likely uttered by a UFC commentator than a journalist. While the man has not been given any characteristics, he’s depicted as a criminal who was the victim of a horrendous (but awesome) mixed martial arts move.  What pretext does that afford to the latest victim of an RCMP attack? As if publishing the identity of the man in that attack has become widely known. Use his name, especially since you’re referencing old news.

Moving on to the newest video of police violence in Terrace, which can be seen in its entirety here:
There’s a part of the video that goes almost entirely unmentioned in the CBC broadcast and article. The video begins with two officers; Officer A is in the motion of standing up, while Officer B is already on top of a young man, punching him. From where Officer A was standing up we see a long-haired individual lying face-down. The CBC article says “the violent arrest took place after RCMP were called to deal with a fight between a young man and woman.” I assume the person on the ground is that young woman. The article continued to say “as the violence unfolds, a woman flees the scene and is brought back by another officer.” This segment of the video is not visible in the CBC clip because they zoomed in from the original footage during the part when the woman is chased. Why is Officer A chasing after a potential victim of gendered violence anyways? By her gestures, it appears she may have been approaching the officers about their actions toward the young man. But, as Officer A turns and points at her, she runs. We can see this woman being led back to the location of the young man by Officer A. From 0:42 to 1:02 the woman and Officer A (now joined by a third officer, Officer C) disappear from sight. It is in this point of the video I urge you to listen intently. There might be more to this video than CBC leads us to believe with their coverage and article. After 1:02 Officers A and C take the woman and put her in the RCMP vehicle. I will be watching this investigation with a close eye.

It seems like every week there’s a new video surfacing that depicts police officers using excessive force and violence. Citizens need to not only be aware of their own rights but, more importantly, the rights of everyone else around them. I feel that as more people see these civilian-directed videos online they understand the need to hold people in positions of Power accountable, especially police officers. I feel it also gives people the reassurance they will not be arrested for filming the police. These acts of citizen-journalism tell those wielding power that they are being monitored by more than just an independent investigation.

A former friend who is now a police officer was quoted as saying he likes when a suspect is over 6 ft. tall because it is a challenge. The man is small in stature but has become incredibly muscular after joining the police force, unrecognizable to myself upon first glance. He is only a few years into his service to his city. This piece of insight has been continuously on my mind since I first heard it, as it brings a whole new perspective to these cases of police officers issuing excessive force.  ​


1 Comment on Lack of Due Diligence in Media’s Reporting of Excessive Police Force

  1. This article just reeks of prejudice towards police officers. Your title is meant to be talking about how reporting these incidents should be done, yet you decide to go on a spiel about the rights of people and included last paragraph, which has nothing to do with this story. Anyone can spout lines from a textbook, only a few can actually learn how to apply them.

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