Devry LAWS420H WEEK 6 Discussion 1 & 2 Letast 2015 october

| January 30, 2017

Question
Discussion 1

“In January 2007, a Los Angeles police disciplinary board ruled officer Steven Garcia was justified in shooting to death a 13-year-old boy who allegedly tried to back over Garcia with a stolen car after a chase two years ago. This finding outraged some in the community and contradicted the earlier finding of the civilian Police Commission, which said the officer should face discipline for the shooting of Devin Brown. Exacerbating this outrage, according to city leaders who spoke out after the case, was that the disciplinary board’s hearing was conducted entirely in secret.” (Winegar, N. Hidden Behind a Badge?)

The recent California court case of Copley Press v. County of San Diego curtailed media access to documents generated in police misconduct hearings. In that case, the court stated, “Copley insists that ‘public scrutiny of disciplined officers is vital to prevent the arbitrary exercise of official power by those who oversee law enforcement and to foster public confidence in the system, especially given the widespread concern about America’s serious police misconduct problems.’ There are, of course, competing policy considerations that may favor confidentiality, such as protecting complainants and witnesses against recrimination or retaliation, protecting peace officers from publication of frivolous or unwarranted charges, and maintaining confidence in law enforcement agencies by avoiding premature disclosure of groundless claims of police misconduct.”

Which is more important, the privacy of the police officer or the community’s desire to know who is patrolling their neighborhoods?

Discussion 2

Reporter Judith Miller was released from jail after 85 days, because she had received a voluntary, direct waiver from her source, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jr., releasing her from her promise of confidentiality and enabling her to testify in the federal investigation of a CIA agent’s leaked identity. Many reporters are concerned that this use of waivers will undermine the profession. Bob Zelnick, chair of Boston University’s journalism department and a former ABC News correspondent, calls a request for a waiver “a functional betrayal of the source and the relationship, and I am disheartened to see how many of my colleagues have rushed to this little life preserver at the expense of their sources.”

Myron Farber is a former New York Times reporter who served 40 days in jail in 1978 for refusing to turn over his interview notes about a New Jersey physician accused of murdering his patients. In most instances, Farber says, reporters are trying to persuade people to share information, not highly motivated whistle-blowers, but reluctant citizens who might know something pertinent to their stories. “Many times you don’t even know what sources are going to say,” he says. “You’re a professional journalist; it’s your responsibility to figure out whether this person knows something. If the person is adamant that they’re not going to talk to you except in confidence, you have to make a decision—either it’s in confidence, or you’ve got to live without the information. You can’t then go back and say later on, ‘That information wasn’t as good as I thought it was,’ or ‘That information is involved in a legal situation, and I’ve got to extricate myself,’ or ‘I can’t afford to go to jail for one reason or another,’ or ‘My paper doesn’t want me to go to jail.’ That is ethically wrong, and it is completely impractical in the real world” (Smolkin, R. Waivering, American Journalism Review, February/March 2006).

Do you think that sources may feel coerced if a journalist, facing jail, asks them for a waiver?

Is this a pragmatic way to stay out of jail or a breach of journalistic ethics that could pose big problems for the profession?

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