Chicago Police Union, Newspaper At Odds on Coverage

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Chicago Sun-Times reporters recently knocked on police officers’ doors to interview them. The Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents most of Chicago’s 12,000 rank-and-file officers, took exception, reports the Columbia Journalism Review. The union’s Martin Preib sent a “cease and desist” letter to reporters Tim Novak and Robert Herguth, saying, “Your use of this tactic is unprofessional and unethical, and is further illuminative of your publication’s general bias against the police. I am informing my members not to speak to either of you, or any Sun-Times reporter, if they come onto their private residence. I am further advising them to call the police and sign complaints for trespassing if you refuse to leave.”

The Sun-Times had published a story about what happens when Chicago officers are caught abusing alcohol or drugs. The city’s scrappy tabloid, which recently came under new ownership, told Preib, “You do your job and we’ll do ours. You keep the city safe. We’ll keep the city informed.” Sun-Times editor Chris Fusco said that neither the FOP letter nor the newspaper’s indicate greater tensions between police and journalists. He said, “I think the FOP has articulated its point and we’ve articulated ours. If we agree to disagree… at least we’ve planted our flags.” Journalists have been increasingly dogged about reporting on police accountability and misconduct, issues at the center of controversies in several U.S. communities. After Ferguson, many of the journalists who cover crime have turned their coverage to debates over police tactics in minority communities, the use of deadly force, and protests by aggrieved residents of their city. Positioned between police and residents, reporters have been threatened with criminal charges and were pepper-sprayed and arrested in St. Louis.

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