Baltimore’s police commissioner is reviewing his much-maligned policy of refusing to name publicly officers who shoot people. Meanwhile, says Baltimore Sun crime beat reporter Peter Hermann, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit concluded that a Baltimore police commander might have been unfairly disciplined for leaking to the media a report critical of cops who shot an elderly man in 2003.
The unrelated cases are linked under the same umbrella: what and how much citizens should know about their government. The appellate court noted that the officer who was fired, reinstated and ultimately banished to the property division, “provided his memorandum to the Baltimore Sun reporter because of his concern for public safety.” When the officer spoke out, city police were much more accessible to the press. Now, says Hermann, the police department is in a virtual media lockdown, requiring spokespeople to accompany reporters on routine assignments and barring contact with officers and their supervisors without permission. While police are disseminating more – albeit tightly controlled and filtered – information to the public on such Internet sites as Facebook and Twitter, they are going out of their way to prevent real discussions and disputes from reaching public ears through strict rules prohibiting access.