Friday, December 17, 2010

PR: Good; Journalism: We’ll see

The Winnipeg Police Service and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs did a very smart thing today. Most importantly, they did it together.

They appeared on the same stage – the media room at police headquarters – to discuss a difficult case.

Evan Maud, a 20-year-old Aboriginal man, told reporters on Dec. 8 that he was grabbed by two police officers on Dec. 3 and left outside the city without a coat in -20 weather.

News media across Canada jumped on the story of the alleged “starlight tour.”

That term was made famous by some unfortunate actions by police in Saskatchewan. A public inquiry there into the death of Neil Stonechild found the credibility of some police officers was lacking.

But that was Saskatoon 20 years ago. This is Winnipeg today.

Today the chiefs of the Winnipeg police and Manitoba’s Aboriginal people co-operated in the announcement that Maud has been charged with public mischief for making a false report.

Like anyone in Canada who is accused of a crime, Maud is innocent until proven guilty.

The participation of Manitoba Grand Chief Ron Evans beside Police Chief Keith McCaskill signals a welcome retreat from the knee-jerk cop-bashing that has sometimes accompanied allegations of police misconduct in Manitoba.

Dare we hope for more public co-operation between these two leaders and their constituencies?

Congratulations to these two and to their public-relations advisers.

Now it’s the duty of journalists to give this event as much publicity as they gave the original story.