One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

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?

  • Print
  • Comment
Comments (3)
Post a Comment »
  • 1

    I reject any and all censorship..... I have little regards for the media and the current state of journalism in our nation yet banning TV crews and withholding any tapes, audio etc is backward and reveals a sense of fear..

    The media of late will always be reactionary it is the current nature of that industry.. I am not suprised by Bing's posture but I do not approve of it..

    I never look towards the media, journalists, reporters etc to define anything for me ..Clearly given the legacy of the media in this region they are not worthy of much respect but Bing's stance is over the top..

  • 2

    "I'm compelled to think back to a move the mayor of Detroit made about a week ago."

    That was last week. Can we please focus on what's happening this week? Also, do you guys ever leave the bureau? If you want to cover news, please go find some.

  • 3

    At first I was all for the ban on filming, but then I heard another comment that made sense.....if the police know they're being filmed, wouldn't they try make double sure they are doing things correctly? Knowing the proof of any "mistake" would be on tape, one would think they'd be extra careful. I think it is grabbing at straws to assume that little girl would be alive today if the film crew had not been here. These shows are filmed in other cities and there's not been a rash of accidental shootings. IMO what happened here was a horrible accident. I don't see why the public needs to view the tape.....people see what they want to see, and if they don't like what they see they claim it's photoshopped or "fake".
    As for Fieger....he just wants attention. Period. He'll do whatever it takes to get it.

Add Your Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The Detroit Blog Daily E-mail

Get e-mail updates from TIME's The Detroit Blog in your inbox and never miss a day.

More News from Our Partners

Quotes of the Day »

NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.