Friday, January 15, 2010

The Decker case: Get the picture?

One of the things I like most about working online is the increased interaction we can have with readers.

If you don’t scroll down to the end of stories on our Web site, you’re missing a rare treat.

At the end of every story, readers have the ability to comment on the stories. As you might guess, our readers are not exactly shy. They point what they believe are flaws in our reporting, give their opinions on what happened, and often assume the role of judge and jury – on both the cases and us.

Almost nothing we have done online has generated the kind of response as the arrest of former Ridley Township Police Officer Brian Decker for allegedly assaulting a Wawa clerk.

And there has been a specific question asked again and again that I want to address.

Many commenters have pointed out that we have not used a photo of Decker. They believe we are giving him a break, and suggest it shows that we are biased in favor of the police. Some have gone so far as to say we are “in the pocket” of the cops, and that we do – and report - anything they want.

If that were the case, I can assure you the Decker story never would have gotten the publicity it did.

But the online world continues to wonder why Decker’s photo has not been plastered all over Page One and our Web site, as have so many other people who get arrested in this county. Some believe it’s because he’s a cop; others go so far as to indicate that if Decker were black we would be treating him differently.

None of these comes close to the truth, which is simply this. Decker’s photo has not appeared in the paper because we don’t have one. We were unable to get a picture of him when he was originally charged, nor were we able to get him when he left rehab and was arraigned. Very often police make available the “mug” shot taken when a suspect is booked.
That has not happened in this case.

This week we reported that Decker’s preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for Thursday, was continued. Again, no photo.

Rest assured that when Decker arrives for his preliminary hearing, we’ll be there. Both reporters and photographers. We will make every effort to get his picture.

Not that I think that will quell the online community who insist our handling of the Decker case is just the latest example of our bias in handling crime stories.

Feel free to add your own opinion. Welcome to the new world of community journalism.

We certainly have a big voice in it. Now, so do you.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil, help me out here. The Decker Case is the number one online response story yet I am the first and only responder to your blog on the story? Where are all the defenders, complainers and advocates when we need them?

January 17, 2010 at 12:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brain Decker already lost his job over this incident. That seems like enough punishment for one horrible lapse in judgment. I am more concerned with criminals repeating the same crimes over and over and over with impunity. There is nothing in the stated facts of this case to indicate this officer has a history of abusing people.

It's been many years since I lived in Ridley but the Decker family has made a great contribution to that town and this should also be considered before any more piling on.

Why would a clerk continue to card the exact same person over and over, especially whe he was obviously over 21 ?

I would not give her a nickel if I was on a jury. Her injuries were probably greatly exaggerated.

Bill Z

February 2, 2010 at 8:52 AM 

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