Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Did the Media Fail to Report What They Knew About Police Violence After Katrina?

On December 10, journalist AC Thompson wrote:
Nobody within the New Orleans Police Department ever tried to bring Warren, McRae and the rest to justice. Nobody went to the chief. Nobody went to internal affairs. Nobody went to the local district attorney or the state attorney general or the U.S. Department of Justice. Every single officer who knew about the circumstances of Glover's demise, and there were easily a dozen of them, was content to simply let him disappear.
He's right. The problems at the NOPD go beyond those officers brought on trial. As Thompson says, "the issues with the New Orleans police go far beyond the misconduct by a few rogue cops." The problems in the NOPD are systemic, and demand a systemic change, including a shifting of priorities towards valuing the lives of the city's African-American majority.

However, there is one topic that Thompson has failed to address, and that's the role of our local media - very much including the Times-Picayune - which also may have failed to report what they knew, or at the very least placed a lower value on stories that contradicted the official narrative of police heroism.

In an important article in Sunday's Picayune, Jarvis DeBerry reports that Alex Brandon, who at the time of the Hurricane and it's aftermath had worked as a photographer for the Times-Picayune, "saw things and heard things that proved to be useful in a criminal investigation. He didn't report them as news." DeBerry says that Brandon "let down his profession and the people who pick up this newspaper in a search for the truth."

During the recent trial of the officers who are accused of killing Henry Glover and covering up the crime, Brandon - who was also on Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of police killings there - testified that he saw officers beating Glover's brother Ed King and good samaritan William Tanner, and later heard his "good friend" Officer David Warren admit that he had shot Glover. He stayed silent, even when directly asked about the cases by photo editor Doug Parker.

DeBerry asks the question, "Glover's family had to wait more than five years for justice. Would it have been that long if Brandon, who now works for The Associated Press, had been the courageous journalist he was believed to be and had told the world what he knew?"

The question now becomes, what other reporters didn't report all that they knew, either because they were participating in a cover up, or - more likely - just because they didn't prioritize the stories of police violence, deferred to official reports, and didn't want to make waves.

Pictured above: Former Times-Picayune Photographer Alex Brandon.

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