The Balancing Act Between Public Safety and Speed of Reporting

Opinion

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – Police and media operate in a balancing act at times. The Police are working to protect the public and to fight crime. The media is working to keep the public informed. There are times when reporting of police actions are often delayed by media. There are times when the actions of police need the secrecy required to execute warrants and to ensure as much safety as possible for the police officers on the frontlines as possible.

It is a balancing act that is not always the easiest to maintain.

Police often have multi-jurisdictional efforts involving officers from different services, and sometimes operations which are over a wide geographic area.

The job of police can be made far more difficult and dangerous with the speed of social media in today’s environment. Sharing images and updates on social media can in some cases put police operations, officers, and the public at risk.

Recently, Operation Riverbank was conducted with the Winnipeg Police Service as the lead police agency.

301 officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Vancouver Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, and Regina Police Service and the Winnipeg Police Service were involved in the operation.

The warrants were executed on October 18th, and the Winnipeg Police Service held a press conference to outline the project on November 1, 2018.

Getting the details out to the media and the public takes time. That is to preserve operational security and maintain safety of the officers.

There are times when the media seeking to get the story out early can put police and public at risk.

In Thunder Bay, this past weekend, Thunder Bay Police along with the Ontario Provincial Police, and Nishnawbe Aski Police executed three search warrants. Ten people were arrested, the first arrests were made on Friday, and the operation continued with two warrants being executed on Monday.

The first instance where NetNewsLedger worked on a story was Operation Dolphin. It was early in the days of Facebook and social media. Facebook lit up with information on the police activity. This was another multi-faceted series of raids. Waiting to report was not easy, getting the story out first was our first instinct. We resisted that temptation, and as information out, it likely was a positive step at least when it came to protecting police.

When Thunder Bay Police was involved in a stand-off in the Windsor Housing Complex, police were asking the public not to post details on social media. That wasn’t to hide what the police were doing, it was to enhance public safety.

Media reporting of these operations by police does take time too. One of the goals there is not hiding things from the public, but to make sure details are accurate. While it could be a short-term boost for the readership to report “live” from the scene, it is also likely, here in Thunder Bay, that doing that could put police and public at a greater risk.

Putting public safety ahead of the speed of reporting is a balancing act. It is a balancing act that NetNewsLedger and other media perform all the time in order to ensure that the combination of reporting and responsibility.

James Murray