Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel J. Oates sent a letter to his staff today outlining his concerns about an upcoming story in Miami New Times. "This email is for your information only. My request is that you not release it outside the Department," he wrote.
Minutes after he sent the email, his staff released it to blogger Bill Cooke. So much for following orders. That seems kind of important in a police department, doesn't it, Chief Oates?
In any case, the letter outlined on Cooke's blog, Random Pixels, reproduces New Times senior writer Michael Miller's highly professional, 839-word request for comment.
The missive notes that Miami Beach officers have used their Tasers more than 584 times in the last eight years, and at least one person has died after being Tased. It mentions numerous "misuses" of the weapons as well as civil rights groups' concerns about them before concluding, "I want to be sure to provide the City of Miami Beach and MBPD with ample opportunity to comment for this article," and giving them four days to respond.
Oates couldn't help himself. He didn't think over a response. Rather he penned a note to Miller declining comment and attacking his reporting, then sent one to his staff slamming Miller for being "less than objective." In his letter, he added: "I don't expect that the article will be favorable to our Department ...This is part of our job and something we have to occasionally deal with."
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When it's published, Chief Oates, our investigation will be a fair telling of the facts. It will be the kind of solid reporting, writing and editing that have been this newspaper's trademark for the past 27 years. It will be the kind of story that has earned us virtually every major journalism award.
So Chief Oates, I have a request for you and your bosses at City Hall including Mayor Philip Levine. Please rethink your response. Miami Beach citizens, who pay your salaries, deserve better than a leaked letter and your official silence. They deserve a good healthy dialogue on the use of Tasers in our communities.
Isn't that something we should all want?