Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wakeup call to Bossier City Police Department

I won’t give a bunch of links to the stories and editorials, I think everyone is aware of the situation which arose about the Bossier City Police Department giving out what they called ‘misinformation’ about the suspected triple killer in the Bill Norris shooting case.
The police spokesman, Mark Natale, told the press that they were looking for a hispanic or dark skinned caucasian, when in fact they already had a suspect, Gerald Needham. The reason ultimately given for their misleading information was that they did not want Needham to know that they were considering him a suspect.
I have mixed feelings about this. First, I’m not in favor of the police lying in any case, for any reason. I don’t believe that the government or any agency thereof has the right to lie to the people, even with good intentions.  It's a very slippery slope.
That being said, they weren’t lying to cover up something nefarious, such as the New Orleans PD did in the case of the people who were murdered by police on the bridge after Katrina.
I understand their reasoning, but personally I believe that if you have to lie, even a white lie, it is probably better to say nothing.
The attention that this is getting should be a wake-up call to the police department. Some local media people are very unhappy about this, and I can’t say that I blame them. They do try to assist the police by putting word out on major cases, and when they find that what they have been reporting to the people isn’t true, it is gives them pause and makes them doubt any future information.
I’m not outraged at this, or even terribly upset. I believe that it was a case of bad judgment, well intentioned. 
Hopefully the next time they are tempted to do this they will realize that it is a matter of principle that they be completely honest with the people they serve. The Bossier City Police Department has a great amount of goodwill and support from the people of the city, and they don’t need to do anything to jeopardize it.

38 comments:

  1. Got some thoughts. Not fully formed. Basically just posting to subscribe (Don't gripe Anon, Jim said I could...and it's his blog, so I can. So, there!).

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  2. The Bossier City Police did what they had to do to put a dangerous man behind bars. They also protected the people in that community by doing this. He was a cold blooded killer. He has been involved in several murders in the past in Shreveport. If he had known that someone saw him leaving the crime scene, he would have either killed them or had someone else kill them.
    Remember, If the DA's office would have been doing their job, he wouldn't have been out of jail to kill people to begin with.
    I accept the police's explanation and say keep up the good work.

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  3. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!” [Jack Nicholson, as Colonel Jessup]

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  4. The only one who seems to have issue with BCPD is Loresha Wilson who is the Times reporter who wrote the article. She also is the reporter who claimed to be blocked from the courtroom by a BCPD Detective.
    Stay in Shreveport Loresha Wilson.

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  5. I say good job. I believe if misinformation was required to capture this thug, so be it. The Times lies to us a lot more than the police.

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  6. "bad judgment, well intentioned" was a great final thought. I like that.

    But Kartman has the most accurate point throughout the storyline and comments: "The Times lies to us a lot more than the police."

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  7. Good Job BCPD!

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  8. As soon as you begin to believe that the end justifies the means, you are heading very quickly toward NOPD.

    Instead of lying and putting out a false description, why didn't BCPD simply say that they would not release a description?

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  9. It seems we've gone full circle. People bitch about the times not reporting on government corruption, then once they do report, the same people say the Times is untrustworthy and disregard the message.

    So now why do you trust the BCPD when they're doing the exact thing the Times did which caused you to distrust them?

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  10. Sounds to me like they have a great detective as Police Chief @BCPD.

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  11. I know Shane McWilliams - if he green lighted this - he had a very good reason and my faith in him and that department has only been heightened

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  12. I agree. The shreveport times gets it wrong about half the time anyway so why is this even being discussed?

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  13. Does this Wilson lady have an underlining agenda? Maybe someone should check into that?

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  14. The entire Gannett news corp. has an agenda. A very liberal agenda which includes making the police the bad guys when possible. As far as I know The Times is still owned by that co.

    I do not trust what is printed in The Times.

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  15. the police made the right call. they don't have to release any information, but releasing misinformation is a form of intelligence gathering. Smart move and shows this new chief is willing to make hard choices that benefit the public.
    If they would have posted copperheads picture we still would not know where he was. Great choice, good judgment.

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  16. Being able to think outside the box can be very beneficial, especially in police work. This is exactly what a young Chief can bring to a department. Chief McWilliams' experiance as a detective will serve him well. The Bossier Police Department did an excellent job in making an arrest in this very high profile case.

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  17. I think it was good judgment by the police department. They knew that once the alleged killer was captured and placed in jail then and only then would the public be safe and hopefully justice occur. They are to be commended, and I think very few citizens would have any trouble in how they handled this case. I am pleased they moved so fast. Thank you!!!!

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  18. If I remember correctly, they never excluded the "light skinned black male" from the description, they only added others to consider. Which to me gives credibility to their statement that they were trying to back off from Copperhead getting tipped off.

    As for Detective Griffith "denying" access to the courtroom, people seem to be forgetting that whoever answered the phone at the DA's Office also said the hearing was closed. Maybe there was a miscommunication somewhere. I'm sure Griffith is a stand up guy, but I doubt he had the power to tell the DA's Office to tell the people it was closed. More likely the other way around, yet he is the one being villified.

    What is truly a shame is that the media outlets have felt the need to publish transcripts from witnesses that were already terrified. And yes, I understand freedom of the press, right to know, etc...But how about some common sense? If they felt they HAD to release the information, why not black out the witnesses names? If citizens were that curious, they could go to the courthouse and get the transcripts themselves. In the interest of justice vs. my curiousity as John Q. Citizen, I defer to the justice process. I'd a lot rather them try a solid, uncompromised case and I can get my answers later.

    Just my thoughts.

    Juror #8

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  19. Court is open to the public. Anyone can watch, anyone can read the transcripts. If it were closed, then how is there any proof that justice has in fact been served? It isn't unheard of that a judge in Louisiana would take a bribe (Alan Green 2009, Thomas Porteous 2010, Michael Walker and Vernon Claville in 2008. In three months in 2007, 24 instances of "pay-as-you-go justice" were exposed. http://tinyurl.com/3hmrjnv

    What more corruption would permeate if court cases were not aired out to public scrutiny. After all, the courts are designed to serve the people as a whole, not the criminals, not the judges, not the lawyers. The people

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  20. Whether we agree with the decision to put out false information, here are the results no one can deny. The next time they give a description of a suspect even those who agreed with them this time will have a question in their mind as to whether this description is true or false. The news media may be hesitant to publish the description for the same reason. A question may arise as to whether it's worth our time to be on the lookout for someone matching a description that may be false. Who would have been liable in a society that have trigger happy lawyers ready to slap a suit on anyone, if someone matching their description was killed? Would the Police be liable, how about the media that published the description? I know the person who killed them would be laible, but the lawyers will tag "everyone" involved in a lawsuit. Even the city of bossier. I don't blame the media for being upset, they have a hard enough time trying to make folks think they are honest and fair. I never have trusted the media and they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy over the years at least in some cases where I knew the truth. Does the end justify the means? I don't think so in this case, especially since they knew who they were looking for. A hundred attaboys erased by one lie. It will take a long time to rebuild trust.

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  21. Good point and very true

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  22. 12:36,
    Let me ask you this, upon hearing the news and suspect description given out, how much time did you put in helping the police look for a suspect? I bet none. I'm sure there wasn't too many people helping the police look for a triple homicide suspect.
    They knew him to be the suspect shortly after the crime took place. They did what they did because they knew he would probably watching the news and they didn't need him to fleeing or killing more people.
    I don't expect everyone to agree but as you can tell your in the minority as to disagree with their methods in this particular case.

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  23. Whoa, ease up there 2:58. The poster is only pointing out the other side of the coin and neither point of view is incorrect.

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  24. How many people think that the BCPD had Copper Heads name within a short period of time please raise your hands. If you think this, you are very naive. Im sure it didnt just fall out of thin air. It most likely came in to the department by Crime Stoppers after he bragged about it. And, I am sure that the witnesses at the scene didn't know him either.
    Now, let me say this before I am crucified, the Bossier City Police did an excellent job in bringing this killer to justice and closier to the families.

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  25. because of the nature of this crime there is very little that can be released at this time. any person with any information about this crime should call the detective office or crimestoppers right away. this has worked for years and is well with-in guidelines. and yes i walked in those shoes for 26 yrs. the bcpd did a good job except for the release. time will take care od it.

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  26. 3:18- Are you asking if we believe the pd knew who they were looking for before or after they issued the description? And look, I have nothing against the pd. I have close relations who are pd. I only stated the consequences of going about it the way they did. I am happy they captured him. But we have to have a standard to hold to, or else anything goes. 2:58- no I would not have gone out and got in the way of the pd doing their job. I do know that in 2 instances in the neck of the woods I live in, once my neighborhood heard a description of a suspect killing someone we all loved, they mobilized and it was a good thing the police got them first. Innocent folks can get hurt. If I am home I need to know who to be on a lookout of who shows up at my home, so I can protect my family. BTW in case someone misunderstands, I was not part of that armed mob.

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  27. 3:43 - you are dead on right.

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  28. "Wake Up Call to BCPD", I seriously doubt this is a wake up call. The men and women of BCPD do an excellent job and Bossier City has lower crime. The reporter from the Times is the same one that stated that homicides in Bossier City are up 300% due the the one incident in which three people were murdered. The Shreveport Times demonize the police in general and there would be a smile on their faces if Copperhead got off scott free.
    The media is upset because they got played like a violin, and it helped the police gather more intel and probably build a better case. 9 times out of 10, the media do nothing but hurt police. The cops I know don't give a crap what the media says about them, they take their licks and keep on going.
    The police did not lie, let me repeat they did not lie, just mislead on the information they obtained for their advantage. I bet this helped not hindered the investigation.
    How scared are the witnesses in this case, hmmmmm perhaps the whole closed hearing thing was to help protect them, you thought that. What if more people/witnesses are killed to keep them from talking, all because their names were printed or displayed by the media in order to obtain a story.
    I agree its a double edged sword, but these guys took a chance. I am sure this is not the first time the media has been mislead, who are they to point fingers, when they do most of the misleading anyway, for their own benefit, and not to help others. "Wake Up Call to the police department", please. You need a wake up call!

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  29. There is a principle involved. As I said, this case doesn't upset me on the merits, I'm glad that Gerald was arrested.
    The principle, however, is that the government does not have the right to lie to the people, no matter how well intentioned. If you think that they do, then we disagree.

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  30. If they would have told the truth the guy would have run.If they had said no suspect yet the public would be upset at no progress.They did what they had to do to get the guy,end of complaining.

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  31. Jim I usually agree with you, but I can't say I do on this one. If they had said exactly who they were looking for he'd have run and people would have helped him. If anyone publicly outed him, they'd have faced retaliation and probably still will. I have zero problem with the BCPD decision to release alternate descriptions of the suspect whether they knew they were seeking Needham or not.
    While I think we all have a certain right to know what our government agencies are up to, there is a reason that we don't. The media risks our security at every opportunity by releasing information that not every person needs to know. Surely, you don't think that this is the first time that a government agency released misleading information do you? Why does the world need to know where our weapons are located? our civil defense tactics? Whether the police use alternative descriptions to keep a suspect from running? This current age of information overload does us more harm than good and affects our ability to obtain sound intelligence at every level from local to global. There is a reason that information is sealed, witnesses sequestored, etc. Don't get me wrong, I believe in being an informed citizen, but sometimes less is more when it comes to information about our defense, security, and methods that police use to capture a suspect, especially when they are within legal limits.

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  32. They did not LIE, no one but the media has said anything about lying. They mislead based on reports they already had, per Natale. They mislead in order to get the guy. When you start throwing around that "they lied", you are misinforming. It is unfair to label them as liars. They were looking out for the good of the investigation and perhaps the witnesses or other people involved.
    Hey, lets just let the guy outta jail and start all over, whatta ya say fella! (thats sarcasm)
    Dont judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes, do you know what kind of pressure these guys work under during these types of investigations. Pressure from the public, the media, the police administration, the families involved, the City administration........Thank you Mike McConnell, someone who has been there and done that. Mike knows what its like, and I commend his comment. He understands. Unless you have worked these kinds of cases, you do not.

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  33. This is for Bad-ole-hounds comments: hooray, you nailed it. I am sure there are lots of guys in badges silently thanking you. You just had one thats for sure.

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  34. Good discussion from everyone. I wish every comment thread on the blog was like this one.

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  35. I think this is the first time I have seen so much support for the police. Very impressed!

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  36. I love the way commenters rationalize how this was a good thing. One fellow (Bill Clinton?)even passionately says the police did NOT lie, they just mislead. Okay.

    No matter how well intentioned or good the result, they have damaged their credibility with future jurors. Defense attorneys will have a field day crossing BCPD members on the stand about how their department has admitted in the past lying, excuse me, misleading the public, about key facts in a case.

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  37. We in law enforcement have to tread a very thin line when it comes to the handling of criminals and their "rights". We often bump that line many times in the attempt to gain an arrest and conviction, but we cannot cross it. We are held to a higher standard and cannot cheat under any circumstance in an attempt to win. For if we do, we become the very people that we despise (criminals). We can however, be ingenious in our attempts to bring suspects to justice and only the high courts can tell us if our neat ideas were hatched in vain.
    Having said this, I again applaud the Bossier City Police Department in their efforts and wish them luck when "Cop" appeals his conviction (every death sentence has a built in appeal).
    Again I say, well done lads, well done.

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  38. All the police department had to say is "We will not give out any information at this time. period."
    No loss of credibility, no losing their suspect. We hold our law enforcement to higher standards than criminals.

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