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Public relations

editorial commentOur local police department doesn’t seem too happy with they way they’re portrayed in the Chronicle police reports. This is nothing new. Ever since social media sites like Facebook got popular, the department has taken a few potshots at the police reports.

It happened again last night on the BPD’s Facebook page. The department’s annual report seems to be a common source of these “the newspaper doesn’t take our work seriously” messages. It is in the annual report, you see, that the department outlines all the community’s crime statistics and the initiatives the department is undertaking.

Police potshotsWe write stories about the annual report too, by the way, such as:

But when the news coming out of the department’s reports keeps coming out saying the Bozeman is one of the safest cities or the safest city in the state, I start to wonder how much of the BPD’s report is public relations and spin.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that anything is falsified or wrong about the reports. There is no evidence of that. I am saying, however, that it’s wise to distrust too much good news — especially when that news comes from the agency that the news is about.

And we should remember that the BPD has an interest in presenting itself to the public as worthy of respect and as an agency that uses taxpayers’ money efficiently. They want to be trusted, as would any organization, business or agency. It’s understandable.

However, since the BPD is an arm of the government, they get to be the subject of criticism and ridicule more often than private enterprises. We have a free and independent press to hold the government in check. When the news starts coming directly from the government (or police, in this case) via social networks or the open Web, we should read it with a grain of salt — preferably large grains of salt.

JanusMay I also point out the irony of this Facebook post coming just an hour before the police sent out a press release and social network post looking for the public’s help finding a missing woman. (Do remember, of course, that the news media are an extension of the public eye.)

So it’s like this: You don’t represent us accurately so we’re going to snipe at you on Facebook and post our own “news.” Oh, by the way, here’s a press release so you can help us.