And just think for just a few bits every day, comics, sports, news, opinion, it's all dropped off on my stoop every morning (well, not the comics. I have to get my comics online)!
But police often have good reason to hate the press. Reporters, and it must be taught in journalism school or something, feel obliged to get all sides of the story. Sounds good... unless, of course, you understand that all opinions are not equally true. Sometimes, especially with crime stories, there really aren't two sides to the story. Sometimes, as a reporter, you should be biased (if bias is a taboo word, how about "be willing to reach a conclusion"?).
Say a criminal gets shot by police. He had a gun. Some police spokesperson says as much. Duly noted. But then you talk to the dead guy's mother who says, "Pookie was an angel. He would never hurt nobody! And he was home with me at the time he got shot." Why, the mother may actually believe this. Or maybe not. But the gentle reader trying to figure out the truth sees this and says, "Hmmm, there are two sides of the story. I bet the truth lies somewhere in between." Actually... sometimes... no. And it's the reporter's job to get the truth and not just lay out all the junk and let the reader decide what's true.
Now here's a rule of thumb: don't value mothers as objective determiners of their babies' character. Nor should you value a criminal's friends as objective determiners of the criminals non-criminal activity.
Now the Times present a story that can at best be described as a police clusterf*ck and hints at a very bad police-involved shooting, with obligatory references to Sean Bell and hints at the idea that all the bullets were fired by police. The first headline said, "After 50 Shots in Harlem, One Dead and 6 Hurt." Wow. Well, that certainly got my attention. And here's this from the August 9th story by William Rashbaum, Karen Zraick, and Ray Rivera:
The witness accounts retold by the police were at odds with what some other witnesses said had happened. Robert Cartagena, 19, Mr. Alvarez’s cousin, and another witness, Shariff Spencer, Mr. Alvarez’s friend, said they never saw Mr. Alvarez fire a gun. [well what do you expect them to say?]Now let's go back to the August 8th story by Trymaine Lee and Colin Moynihan:
Mr. Alvarez’s lawyer [whose job it is to defend his client regardless of guilt] ... said his client ... motioned “no” when asked if he had had a gun or fired one.
Yet questions were being raised among some witnesses as to whether the police had acted appropriately.See... it was All Love. And then police showed up. Two guys just in a little scuffle and police blow them away.
When that first shot went off, “Angel was still punching,” Mr. Spencer [a friend of Alvarez] said.
“Never once did you hear, ‘Freeze,’ ” he said. “Never once did you hear, ‘Stop.’ Never once did you hear, ‘N.Y.P.D.’ ”
Several residents expressed outrage at the shooting, saying the police were overly aggressive.
“People feel like they have no concern for life,” Sean Washington, a television producer who lives down the street from where the shooting occurred, said of the police. Before the gunfire started, he added, the D.J. at the block party said over the loudspeaker “how good a feeling it was because there was no violence. It was all love.”
Having been a police officer, I assume -- no, I know -- that nine times out of ten the police version of the story is closer to the truth than any "witness" account.
Now I wasn't there. So I don't know what happened. But I bet it's pretty close to the Post's account:
Moments before a police-issued semiautomatic slug fatally ripped through Soto's chest, he allegedly pulled his .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver on Alvarez, a small-time hood who was getting the better of him in a fistfight, sources said.Also, the A.P.'s Colleen Long has a good story.
Alvarez lunged for the weapon, and it went off twice during the struggle, attracting the attention of officers nearby, witnesses told police.
Alvarez, 23, then allegedly fired at Patrolman Douglas Brightman -- prompting the uniformed cop and three officers on the other side of the block to return a volley of 46 rounds, police said.
The Daily News says: "NYPD officials initially said Alvarez killed Soto with the revolver, before shooting at four cops who returned fire. Yesterday, cops said the revolver was in Soto's waistband but Alvarez took it from him and shot at a uniformed officer with it." For the record, Soto was killed and Alvarez shot many many times but is alive.
So what's my point? I'm not certain yet. But why does the Times see fit to quote Ms. Craft, Alvarez’s bother, saying her brother has a job (auto mechanic) and a 2-year-old son? Well maybe because the story is trying to make Alvarez look like a victim, which makes police out to be the criminals.
But if we want a character study on Soto and Alvarez, why not tell the whole story? The Post is willing to call Alvarez a small-time thug. And apparently there's nothing small time about Soto. According to the Daily News:
Both had records. Alvarez had two prior arrests, including one for gun possession and trying to run down a cop with a car, for which he served two years. Soto had been arrested eight times, including for burglary.But I can hear people saying, "So maybe they had trouble in the past. But how long can you hold that against them? Poor kids." Whatever. And I have a bridge to sell you.
Michael Feeney of the Daily News digs up a Twitter account (I found this under the name BooBillzMB) and writes: "Luis Soto, slain in Harlem shootout, painted himself as tough gangbanger on Twitter.
"I go 2 da grave b4 I be a b---h n----! Fa'realll," he wrote July 23.With a past record of illegal gun possession and assaults on police, and with a running feud with Soto, perhaps Alvarez's biggest mistake was bringing a knife (or his fists) to a gun fight. Was Soto a b*tch n***a? Not for me to say, but he got his wish about going to the grave first. Was Alvarez just in the wrong place at the wrong time? I doubt it. Is any of this relevant? Actually, yes.
He posted photos of himself flashing gang signs, or holding a new iPhone, an iPad and cocktails.
In one photo, he looked out at the camera over a thick fan of crisp new $50 bills - many thousands of dollars worth.
Though he had no job, he planned to trade in his BMW 760, a $130,000 car, for an equally pricey Mercedes-Benz CL550, he tweeted.
A turf rivalry between Harlem, where Angel Alvarez lives, and the Bronx, where Soto was from, surfaced in his tweets. "Not for nothin da BRONX Got More Real N----s Den HARLEM," he wrote July 28.
Friends said Alvarez and Soto had an argument two weeks ago that led to their clash Sunday in Harlem.
Because imagine going to work and getting into a gunfight. Just another day at the office? Imagine the fear as you see a muzzle flash and think you're going to die. Imagine the guilt of learning that you almost killing another officer. Imagine how lucky you feel to be alive. Imagine the relief of going back to your wife and kids. And for this the department and city you serve make you get a piss test and strips you of your gun "pending investigation." And then in the papers your friends and family read about how you might have killed an innocent hard-working might for no reason.
Did police behave correctly in using lethal force and shooting 46 times at these two fighting men with a gun? Absolutely. I don't want to go too far, but it seems like the least we could do is appreciate what these officers went through and thank them for risking their life while just doing their job.