Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Media Reporting of Body Camera Use

Reporting of Body Camera Use
Aaron Carney
September 8, 2018
ESMG 4200 – John Fisher

Executive Summary:
This case study will go over the issues of mass communication revolving around an incident that relates to myths and media bias in reporting shootings. In this I will give a case example to outline the issue and I will give sources and information to explain the issue. The incident occurred in Las Vegas back in July of this year (2018). One article is given as source for the incident and other sources will be shown to outline how media myths can be perpetuated and how the media differs in coverage.


The incident took place July of 2018 in Las Vegas. It was Las Vegas Metropolitan Police that was the involved agency.  The incident involved tow suspects, Fidel Miranda and Rene Nunez Both of them were suspects in a fatal shooting of a 25-year-old male who was shot multiple times in the chest. LVMPD was investigating the shooting and found a vehicle that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle. A vehicle pursuit of the suspect car ensued. During the pursuit the suspect’s vehicle fired over 30 rounds from their vehicle in a random manner towards the public. The pursuit ended when a police officer fired his service weapon through his front windshield and then firing round out the driver’s window and then after disabling the suspect vehicle he fired another volley of rounds, subsequently killing one suspect and wounding the other who fled the scene.
According to the article I found from The Independent, it states “A shoot-out caught on a US police officer's body camera ended with the suspects being fired at through a patrol car windscreen. The incident between police officer William Umana and two men suspected of a homicide took place in Las Vegas on 11 July. Mr Umana is seen on camera shooting while driving, first using his open window and then blowing holes in his own windscreen. The suspects, Fidel Miranda and Rene Nunez, had allegedly fired 34 bullets at police. The pursuit eventually ended at a primary school where the suspects crashed their vehicle.” (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/las-vegas-cop-shoots-through-window-windscreen-suspects-police-officer-a8451401.html).

What issues arise when media sources take data out of context? What happens to opinion when mass communication from the media is designed to alter viewpoint rather than give fact? How is this resolved?


LVMPD released the body camera footage of the incident and gave the context of the incident.  https://youtu.be/M_bF7i2_ok4 . The footage in the most uncut version I could find starts with the pursuit of the suspect vehicle by the officer. Over the course of a few minutes you hear over 30 shots fired by the suspect vehicle. It is not until 3 minutes and 21 seconds into the 4-minute video that the officer discharges his weapon. So where is the issue starting? The issue is that one source that I found from The Independent tells us in the article that the officer fired his weapon but did not give much context as to why or when. There is only one word in the beginning of the article that indicates the timing of the officer’s shots in context to the pursuit. It is natural for articles and stories to differ and even camera footage to be started and stopped in such a way that context is lost. This causes a huge potential problem when you have mass communication of these articles. It causes a massive amount of possible confusion or even intentional or unintendedly biased toward law enforcement. Those are but a few of the issues that arise when incidents are taken out of context or are just reported in a way that doesn’t give context as is needed. One huge issue as well is that footage of incidents like these are made available with ease on a mass scale. Who is affected by this issue? I think everyone is affected by it. When things are viewed out of context, whether intentionally or by accident, we leave ourselves open to form opinion that is not based on all the facts.  When we examine the issues of law enforcement (I think this also applies to EMS and to Fire) versus media bias one of the largest issues is the mass communication of bias reporting leads to more violence. According to an article from Fox news, “A recent FBI study showed that one-sided media reporting and social media posts about officer-involved shooting incidents lead to further episodes of violence against police.” The article tittles this the “Ferguson Effect”. That refers to the shooting of a young black male in Ferguson Missouri that caused a new trend of violence against police and media bias and a movement of distrust towards police. This from what I can gather is caused much by how information is so easily at our finger tips that news becomes almost live. This is a good and a bad thing. When we look at a situation as it occurs but not within proper context we lose sight of the truth.  That answers what occurs to opinion when mass communication is used to alter views rather than present fact.

How is this resolved? If we examine a YouTube video released by the LAPD, we see one method that is now being used to combat ignorance and intentional bias about police shootings. https://youtu.be/MPuDn4A6KnI . This video outlines a critical incident that occurred by the LAPD. The police department is essentially controlling the information as it is presented but they are not withholding key facts but are explaining in a n open manner he facts. When we look at mass communication I believe when the source of the news is open with the facts it is easier to sway bias issues and confusion. In a sense the answer is the old phrase, “to hear it from the horse’s mouth”.

Key decision Criteria:

When we look at the above we are seeing small but significant examples of what the issue is and how to resolve it. In the case of the incident about the LVMPD shooting from the window the issue that arose is the free from information presented allowed intentional and unintended bias to alter one’s viewpoint. The key to resolving the bias is to take note of the LAPD model, to give the information freely (as law dictates) and to explain the actions. This allows the media when covering the story to have all the facts they need and to have clear direction thus allowing the media reporting to be clear and factual. 


I would say that the best solution to resolve misunderstanding and bias within the media is;
1. Give clear facts of the incident as needed.
2. Build trust and rapport with the releasing of information (as we see in LAPD videos)
3. Control flow of information to keep integrity of incidents and the context.

Action and implementation plan:

The key to attaining a media reported story that has all the context and facts starts with the information itself. As we saw in the video of the LVMP shooting the context was somewhat lost as we did not see why or how things began but only the climax of events. I would say the starting point if with the PIO and the releasing of information in a timely and factual way. The next thing to do is on the shoulders of those reporting the information, whether it be from a YouTube port to a written article by mainstream media. They need to report the facts and context without bias.


Bodycam Shows Officer Shooting At Suspect Through Windshield

Critical Incident Video Release NRF046-18. (2018, September 04).  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPuDn4A6KnI

Collins, L. (2018, July 17). Dashcam video shows Las Vegas police officer shooting at suspects through his windscreen. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/las-vegas-cop-shoots-through-window-windscreen-suspects-police-officer-a8451401.html

Fox News (2017, May 06). 'Ferguson Effect': FBI Says Biased Media Narratives Lead to Violence Against Police. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/05/06/fbi-says-biased-mainstream-media-led-police-officer-violent-crimes-ferguson-effect

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