The Mayor's Ban On TV Crews
Watching the growing Category 5 hurricane that is defense attorney Geoffery Fieger, I'm compelled to think back to a move the mayor of Detroit made about a week ago.
That's when Dave Bing banned TV crews from riding along with the Detroit Police Department. This came in the wake of the shooting death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was shot by a Detroit police officer during a raid on her eastside home, a raid that was being filmed by a crew from A&E Network's "The First 48."
Naturally, the journalist in me found the move a bit heavy-handed (not unlike his banishment of the City Hall press corps to the building's basement). And while I've never dug the way that shows like "Cops" tend to suggest that criminals come mainly in various shades of brown, I don't have any real issue with the idea of another set of eyes being trained on public employees who do jobs as important as law enforcement.
Worse than just being excessive, though, Mayor Bing's ban struck me as a feeble reaction from an administration that's been caught off guard by a wave of violence in the city. And worst of all, it seemed horribly misplaced, not just a knee-jerk response to bad PR but also a move reflective of our city's larger, collective oversensitivity to media exposure.
Yes, I get the logic that some have applied in the Stanley-Jones case to support the idea of a ban: If there were no TV cameras, the cops wouldn't have overreacted and the child wouldn't have died. I just don't agree.
We've had plenty of instances of brutality and wrongful shootings in this city that have nothing do with cable shows. And as infuriating as it may be to think that the police were showing off for the TV, it seems to me that when the police go overboard, the proper reaction is to address the behavior itself and/or the people and policies governing that behavior. It was Bing, after all, not the A&E Network, who described Detroit police chief Warren Evans as "aggressive."
Banning films crews seems like a tacit, wrongheaded admission that our officers aren't disciplined enough to keep from straying from department policy in the face of kleiglights. It also smacks a bit of blame-shifting, IMO.
Now we have Fieger, who is representing Aiyana's family in legal action against the department, amping up the volume on his accusations that the cops are trying to cover up what really happened when the girl was shot. He's also contending that the tape shot by that "First 48" crew will back up his allegations.
I don't know if he's right or not. He could be telling the truth or blowing smoke. But it is certainly reasonable to believe that that film crew captured what happened that night, or at least some of it. After all, that's why they were there. And if they did see something that helps explain this horror, then that's all the more reason why we don't avert our eyes, don't impose useless bans.
We can't stop others from looking in, not by issuing fiats, not by holding forums. Why ban TV crews as long as they stay out of the way? The mere presence of a TV camera or cable show can in no way excuse or trump the ugliness of tragedies like the violent deaths of our children.
But it might just help explain a few things.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to ban TV crews from following the police? Is it a fair reaction to the shooting incident involving Aiyana Stanley-Jones? And should law-enforcement make the tape available for public viewing, as some have demanded?