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Let's Talk About the Salem Police DepartmentPolitical Perspective by Jerry Freeman Salem-News.com
What's it going to take to get police in Oregon's capitol city to treat media with respect?
(SALEM) - Jerry Freeman's frequent negative contacts with Salem Police as a news photographer are problematic. The open and flagrant abuse of media by police is not sitting well with us. I can't understand why these officers who yell and scream like they have no control over their emotions at all, feel compelled to show Jerry who is in charge when they have actual criminals to deal with. It always makes me wonder what it is they have to hide. It seems clear that this battle for public information has to be fought in the open, and our public dissemination of this information is the only option. If we reveal enough, it might lead to a better day for all of us.
Salem PD's approach to media is very small town at best, and needs to change. The problem is not ours to fix, it is theirs; and it does impact our local news coverage and Jerry's ability to earn a living.
All of this continues as a problem, when Jerry and I have gone out of our way at least three different times that I immediately recall, to cover events that Salem Police asked us to cover; one was a story about police dogs; another was about police officers being awarded, and one was about Salem Police officers who were part of a Memorial Torch Run. All three of these stories were videotaped and required many hours of labor to complete.
Each time Jerry and I hope the good relations will pay off by Salem officers respecting Jerry's Civil Rights and his humanity and each time it fails to happen. We'll air clips in the future of police that in the past were never shown. They dismiss our needs because we aren't corporate owned media, yet we can light the Internet up and leave people talking. All we want are to be granted our rights as Americans, is that too much to ask?
Jerry Freeman: Let's Talk About the Salem Police Department
It seems to me that any police department seeking good public relations, which renew the faith of taxpayers in their city agencies, would start by building good media rapport.
But my experience with the Salem Police Department as a news photographer covering the area for Portland television stations (If the story is big enough, it might be CNN or one of the other networks) and Salem-News.com, has been one of them demanding my cooperation and respect, and in far too many cases offering no respect in return. Not for my fifty years of life, professional standards or moral judgement.
And as far as cooperating, I have never had a Salem Police officer say to me, "Now that its all clear would you like to get a good video clip?"
I have had many Salem officers tell me, "You wait here..." (three or four blocks away) "...we will come give you a statement shortly," only to complete their job and leave without saying a word or keeping their end of the deal.
One night Salem PD was using the SWAT team to serve a warrant in west Salem. They established a one block in each direction perimeter, and maintained that perimeter for no less than 3 hours. I openly worked one side with my camera the whole time, watching and recording SWAT members in the moment; armored vehicles rolling down the street.
But when I finally got around to the the side of the perimeter that the command vehicles were parked on, (this is behind the lines kind of stuff), and started to work, I heard two officers across the street talking about shinning a flashlight at my camera to get me to go away, with no regard for my having a job to do; one that is so important toward maintaining our liberty that the founders made it a part of the First Amendment of The Constitution of the United States.
A moment later another officer came out of the darkness and told me they would be moving the perimeter two blocks farther away and I needed to leave. Remember that they deemed the first perimeter good enough for more than three hours.
Twice so far I have had the Salem Police Departments PIO (Public Information Officer) come to me to talk about what he sees as my misbehavior. The first time I was counseled, I had done nothing even remotely illegal or unethical; it wasn’t even a Salem Police crime scene.
The second time Lt. Okada had a talk with me, he started off in a way that seemed patronizing; telling me he has always found me easy to work with, (I am if you give as good as you expect), but then he went straight into how I should always talk to the sergeants on scene and, "They will help me get the shot and or the information I need." "You just need to work with them," I was told, "...and they will work with me."
The case he was referring to began as a water rescue, which makes it a Fire Dept. scene (they never want to hide from the camera). In fact while making access to the scene I encountered fire personnel, no police. Firefighters informed me that I could not use a certain trail down to the water's edge, so I used another one.
After getting on the shoreline and taking several video shots, I was approached by a particularly unfriendly sergeant from Salem Police who confronted me, ordering me to leave. He refused to let me go back the way I came, even as I tried to explain to him that I had left gear behind on the trail that I had walked down, and I needed to recover it on my way out - no dice.
In another incident, I had a Salem PD officer try to make me stay away from a scene for no reason other than to keep my camera from recording what they had done. One of the Salem officers had shot a dog that many neighbors told me was very friendly and playful. The only neighbor that told me a different story also spent 15 minutes complaining to me about all of the neighbors and all of their dogs.
We all have the First Amendment Right which allows us to observe events from public property. But when I show up with a camera, the police sometimes begin moving large numbers of the public away from safe viewing areas, so they would have a better leg to stand on when they order my camera and I out of the area.
I could go on for a long time with examples of this kind of disrespect for your rights to see what your tax-paid employees are doing. But just let me point out that I could not tell you any stories about Salem Police officers doing anything to be of any real help to me trying to bring you the up close coverage of news in your city and your state capitol that you deserve. I guess when Lt. Okada tells me I just need to work with them he means I should just stay home and forget about YOUR VERY FIRST CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT YOUR CITY SERVANTS ARE DOING.
Just in case the Salem Police Department would like to get to a better way of working with your eyes and ears, here are couple of suggestions.
The public deserves better than the police department has been delivering.
Thank You Salem, for letting me bring you some of your local news. We at Salem-News.com do it for no other reason than because Salem needs more people willing to stand up for your right to know what is going on in your city, and around your world.
And remember it is your world. just because we delegate some authority to small groups of people, doesn't mean they get to violate your rights in the process of being 'in charge'.
You Are! Remind Them!
Jerry Freeman Bearing Witness On Our World
Jerry Freeman is part of a new generation of dedicated news photographers who entered the Internet news industry as a second career. He shares in common with many people who fulfilled their life dream of becoming a visual journalist. Joining the Navy at an early age, and the Oregon Army Guard a few years later, Jerry has a wide range of life experiences. He describes himself as “a truck driver with a new found passion to bear witness to the world’s events.”
Teaming up with Salem-News.com he embarked on a new career as a video news photographer and reporter. Jerry's quick exhibition of natural talent and ability to shoot breaking news led to his becoming a published member of the Salem-News.com team. You can write to Jerry Freeman at: email@example.com
Tim King has over 20 years of experience on the west coast as a TV news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim has worked as a war correspondent in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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