Print Media

Concern About Police Secrecy = "Tilting at Windmills"?


My column this week was about the continuing secrecy of Virginia's largest police departments and the way the state's law enforcement community is opposing efforts to make the departments even marginally more transparent. The journalist sounding the alarm about all of this is Michael Pope, who writes for Northern Virginia's Connection Newspapers, and contributes to D.C. NPR affiliate WAMU.

But Pope's series of articles inspired this strange reaction from the editor of the Sun Gazette, another Northern Virginia regional paper (motto: "Reaching the most affluent audience in the Washington D.C. metro area").

Stop Tilting at Windmills, Connectionerinos

The Connection newspaper chain, which is hanging in there by seemingly defying the laws of economics, has a new cause to champion.

The paper's Arlington edition, and presumably others, ran a story this week about the ability of Virginia's public-safety agencies to shield information from the view of the public and the press.

I think this whole folderol dates back to last year's arrest of the Alexandria police chief on a DWI charge in Arlington. Let's just say Arlington police weren't as forthcoming as they might have been, going so far as to charge news outlets for costs related to providing some of the meager information they released.

The back story to this appears to be that the reporter involved with this story used to work in Florida (as did I!), where open-records laws are great for the press. Just about everything is open to public review down there.

But the article goes a bit too far with a sub-headline that says "Secret Police?" as if Northern Virginia was akin to East Germany, and terms what public-safety agencies do a "code of silence."

Blah, blah, blah, blah. Nobody cares except some freedom-of-the-press types. Hey, I'm a freedom-of-the-press type, and even I don't care all that much.

Actually, the "whole folderol" took off when Fairfax County police shot and killed an unarmed man during a traffic stop last year, and have since refused to release the police reports, dash cam footage, or even the officer's name.

But, you know, dead citizen, cops not talking . . . blah blah blah blah. Better to devote precious newsroom resources to the important stuff, like the local mini-golf tournament, or how the local police department won an award for ticketing people who don't wear their seatbelts.

NEXT: The Kook Abides

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  1. Of course, if a cop was killed during a traffic stop, it would be media’s civic duty to help hunt him down.

    1. What, like if someone stole the cop’s body?

  2. You can’t expect newspaper types to risk their access to the cops with a negative story. But you would at least hope they wouldn’t criticize those that do.

    1. The writer goes beyond badge licking into “there is no cop shit I will not eat” territory.

      (x-posted @ The Agitator)

  3. Keep it up Mr. Balko, you are doing incredible work. As much as I feel like strangling a cat after reading your posts the journalistic detail in which you are providing the facts behind these gross violations of the public trust are invaluable.

  4. The Vienna Police Department on Aug. 18 received an award from the Click It or Ticket Virginia campaign, which promote safe driving and life-saving strategies within Virginia.

    A wise person once said

    Government Cock Will Not Suck Itself. That’s What A Free And Independent Media Is For.

    1. Speaking of the “Click It or Ticket” campaign, I have become fucking amazed at the way the government addresses the citizenry at this point. They have gone full-on threatening. While in central WA this weekend, there were the “Litter and it will hurt” signs; there are the constant threats on the TV and the roadside that “cops are stepping up enforcement–we WILL find you” regarding drunk driving and even not having your seat belt on. It’s ridiculous, and completely indicative of the way the police and politicians view the populace.

      1. “Click it – or you’ll go to jail, where you WILL be raped.”

        1. “Click it – or you’ll go to jail, where you WILL be raped.”

          -by your own younger self. Yes. That’s right. The state prison has a time machine and can make you spend the night with your teenage self and they’ll let him rape you. You remember what you were like back then. Stop crying, you baby. He’s barely halfway-in.

          1. Dude, my teenage self could barely deadlift 450, and he hardly knew how to take a punch. I’d rape the fuck out of that dickhead, no matter how much his backne disgusts me.

      2. I hate the “we will punish you if you don’t buckle up” mentality. It almost makes me NOT want to buckle up.

        My dad got seatbelts installed when they were first offered as an option & I have worn one almost every time I’ve gotten in a car since then. I was saved from serious injury by wearing a belt, so I really think they are a good thing.

        Just don’t threaten me “for my own good.”

        [Hope this isn’t a double post. The server squirrels seemed to eat my first attempt.]

        1. Yeah, I would probably be dead if not for seatbelts. The only thing that makes me want to not wear one is the fucking click it or ticket shit.

          1. I only wear a seat belt if I’m going to drive fast. It’s worked out well so far.

        2. “”Just don’t threaten me “for my own good.”””

          In Arkansas, it’s against the law to not wear your seatbelt, but it’s ok to not wear a helmet on a motorcycle.

      3. I was thinking just the same thing in reaction to all of these highway safety TV ads threatening to arrest people who drink and drive. It is appalling and insulting and a sign we are on our way to being a police state.

        1. We can’t forget the hundreds of thousands of people who did not lose their lives because they were smart enough to reject the “scientific proof” that seatbelts save lives.

      4. It’s being tough on crime.

        The majority doesn’t care because they firmly believe if you draw an officers attention, it’s because you did something wrong.

  5. All of this unpleasantness could be avoided if certain people would just stop demanding silly little frivolities like accountability in government.

    For God’s sake, let the police conduct their cover-ups in peace! It’s for America!

  6. motto: “Reaching the most affluent audience in the Washington D.C. metro area”

    If a libertarian can’t sympathize with the rich, then you better turn in your monocle and top hat.

    1. I’ll give you my monocle and top hat when you take them from my cold, dead, dry-roasted hands!

  7. How about that…that squirrel can water-ski!

  8. oh my god i thought you were joking about that motto. that is fucking hilarious.

  9. “Nobody cares except some freedom-of-the-press types. Hey, I’m a freedom-of-the-press type, and even I don’t care all that much.”

    It’s almost beyond belief how editors of these shitty little hicktown papers will cozy up to the cops.

  10. Thread Jack for KY Reasonites:

    This weekend in Jessamine County there is the JD Crowe Bluegrass Festival. It’s a good time listening to some good music. It’s low key. My property borders with the concert venue and would like to invite any who might like to go to park at my house and walk. We can also share in libations and good talk.

    It’s just outside a small town named Wilmore, which is about 20 miles SW of Lexington.

    Email me at bluegrass [at] madlibertarianguy [dot] net.

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