This is another example of how the national media frame their discussions on race, as if every community with black Americans is 'The Black Community' and that every atrocity they can find is representative of how dysfunctional 'America' and our police and people are. The result is a rash of thin thinking and hashtag activism that only serves to give legs to a story whose conclusions have already been reached. Most importantly it disables local action. Now I see it can sow seeds of division among local people.
I have some interest in seeing local data more accurately presented. And I cite the precedence of the LA Times Murder page, and in fact the Guardian UK's countdown page. There is NO WAY that any national newspaper, much less an international newspaper should have more credibility than a local paper on exactly how police and neighborhoods act and react. The answer is a responsible and objective city desk that must evolve to become an unimpeachable source. To me that requires the cooperation not only of police and journalists, but the entire legal community.
I have been holding back screams when I see that judges, defenders and prosecutors silent as police have been taking a beating in the news. They, more than anyone, know how well the police and detectives are handling major crimes and how poorly bad arrests fail in court, but we don't have any of that input in the news.
So it seems to me that the choice is obvious. Have Presidential candidates and Congressional loudmouths and big city editors drive public opinion on how *your* community will or will not deal with police, or have unimpeachable data published as a permanent responsibility and artifact of your local news. If you can't tell the truth, others will lie for you.
The political responses will never be adequate. It's not until you have the mayors, the chiefs, the editors, the courts and the communities saying we all agree on what happened, and this is how it played out that the system will work. Its not just a Justice System it's an Information System that must be accountable to the people.
I have been having debates all year about who can be trusted if and when officers kill. And there are literally people I engage with who will swear that bodies disappear and that it is IMPOSSIBLE to know how many people are killed by police for any reason. No journalist should dare, DARE, report on a touchdown or a concert or a recipe, until everybody in the whole news organization is absolutely sure they know who is alive or dead in the communities they serve. If journalists can't do it, we computer geeks will do it - even if it means hacking every electronic device currently in existence or yet to come. So I'm telling you as a warning, if you value your profession, you had better start counting things that count and getting your math right before somebody bigger than you gets the political angle right. Right here, right now, in this democracy, people believe that police are getting away with murder and essentially snatching civilians off the street. And you will never be able to stop people with cameras in your community from going viral, so you had better be right with the facts. it's your only hope.
FYI. This is what I can get from the FBI for Greensboro 2013
Greensboro-High Point NC M.S.A.
Violent Crime 344.6
Aggravated Assault 214.3
Porperty Crime 3,448.50
Larceny Theft 2,313.20
Motor Vehicle Theft 158.1
If you think those numbers are boring, try arguing about statistical outliers when people are shouting bloody murder in your streets. Of course Greensboro isn't Baltimore isn't Ferguson isn't NYC.
If it were me, I'd have a countdown clock right on my front page, or in a community statistics section.
How many cops on staff. How many 911 calls fielded. How many cases on the docket. How many people in jail this week. People will want to know how many people are in jail more than they will read the obituary section, I'd bet. Get it together people. Bring your city desk out of the 70s, please. (Subscribe to NIXLE and get a starter feel for what you can do with social media). If I hear a siren in my city, I want to know why. You can do this.