Chronicle congratulates itself for decrease in police shootings

On Sunday, the Chronicle ran a story about a decline in police shootings during 2004, in Harris County. The newspaper also took the opportunity to give itself a hearty pat on the back:

Activists and police leaders say the decline is due to policy changes, increased public awareness, the recent acquisition of Taser stun guns by several departments and the Houston Chronicle's midyear investigative reports on the issue.

Except that the article doesn't include a quote from a police leader or any pro-police activists that specifically attribute the decrease to the Chronicle's mid year report. So, we are left to assume that the praise for the Chronicle's role in the decline comes from the ACLU and LULAC activists quoted in yesterday's story, which means the paragraph was poorly worded. This KHOU-11 story has what would seem to be a more accurate wording:

Law enforcement agencies say these statistics are no accident. They are the result of strict policies and technology enabling officers to make safer choices.

The AP has picked up the Chronicle article and it is now making the rounds of media outlets, with the Chronicle-kudos included:

Police department leaders and activists say the decline is due to policy changes, increased public awareness, the acquisition of Taser stun guns and a Chronicle midyear report on the issue.

The links for the Chronicle's investigative police shooting report, which ran last July, are here and here. It's important to note that law enforcement agencies often fall into the Chronicle "bad guy" category.

Last July, Hans Marticiuc, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, responded to the Chronicle's special report with this column:

When we first heard that the Chronicle was running series of articles this past weekend looking at incidents where Harris County and Houston suspects were shot by local police officers, many of us dared to hope that our hometown newspaper would take a balanced look into perhaps the most troubling issue every HPD member confronts each morning they put on their uniform and try to maintain the public safety in an increasingly dangerous world.

After all, no law enforcement officer goes to work hoping today is the day he or she can draw their weapon. No officer looks forward to placing themselves, or others, in harm’s way. Moreover, everyone involved in an accidental shooting – the victim, the victim’s family, as well as the officers involved – all suffer permanent, terrible, lifelong scars.

Yet, like those who blame the United States for the war against terror, the Chronicle seems to think that local police officers are likewise solely responsible for the erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior of the individuals they confront on an all-too-frequent basis in the country’s fourth largest city.


What made this series not only disappointing, but outrageous, is the fact that the Chronicle’s editorial board recently got a pretty good taste of the real pressures faced and split-second judgments required by officers when confronted with a dangerous situation.

Earlier this year, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal invited members of the editorial board to the basement of the Harris County Court House to experience the Shoot/Don’t Shoot Course – a state-of-the-art virtual reality program used to train law enforcement officers how to deal with a variety of simulated, life-threatening scenarios. According to those who witnessed the exercise, a majority of the editorial board members “killed” both innocent citizens and unarmed suspects. One reportedly shot a child – and was, understandably, so upset by their decision they could not continue the course.

Unfortunately for those of us who have dedicated our lives to making our community a better place to live and work, we cannot stop the exercise. We have to live with the consequences, which is why we are working as hard as we can to reduce these instances.

He submitted this to the Chronicle for op-ed consideration, but since the Chronicle doesn't archive opinion pieces from the "Outlook" section, it's unclear if it ever ran. What is also interesting is that at the end of yesterday's Chronicle story there is a quote from Chief Hurtt about the importance of police training and retraining. The reporters didn't mention that Chronicle editors have actually had some firsthand experience with one police training program, and didn't do so well.

It would have been refreshing if the Chronicle had just commended local law enforcement for working so hard to reduce the number of police shootings, but that was not to be. Jeff Cohen's crew had to make sure the Chronicle took some credit for the decline, which should make sure that the July special report will be considered for some industry awards.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 12/27/04 02:09 PM | Print |

Bookmark and Share

Previous Entry | Home | Next Entry


+BH Commentary (RSS)
+Contact Us
+Local News Headlines



All content © 2004-09, blogHOUSTON and the respective authors. is powered by Nucleus.

Site design and Nucleus customization are by Kevin Whited.