Sadly, Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress sees nothing wrong with his coarse officers breaking the highest law of the land.
As he pointed out in an editorial in the Valdosta Daily Times, Chief Childress thinks journalism is to blame because it caught his officer doing wrong.
At least journalism in the way we do it here at Photography is Not a Crime, which many times, depends on citizen journalism as opposed to the corporate journalism produced by the mainstream media, which reported how his officers had black students removed from a Trump rally earlier this year.
Recently two separate online videos have surfaced involving the Valdosta Police Department and in both cases, they presented the department in an unfavorable light. To be clear, the department never denied in both cases that some of the facts were accurate. But in both cases, many Internet “journalists” posted their own comments, racy headlines and led many to assume they were reporting all the facts. Then after posting these videos without following any journalistic standards, they contact my department for an official comment after my staff and I received many hate emails suggesting because of two “half” stories, somehow our department is corrupt. In a phone conversation I had with one of these so-called online journalists, I asked him if he was truly a journalist, why didn’t he call me and ask for all facts before writing what he considered a factual story. My response to him was direct but fair: “I don’t deal with media outlets who fail to follow the ethical standards which my employees and I must abide to and acknowledge each year in our department training and accreditation standards.”
At the time of his column, Chief Brian Childress was failing to identify the police officer who profanely roughshod onto private property to coarsely harrass private citizens, depriving them of their constitutional civil rights in the usual Blue Wall of Silence.
But that took several readers to tip us off and one of our reporters to call him and confirm it – days after he blew another one of our reporters off whom he is referring to in the above passage.
However, he failed to tell us that another deputy that was on the scene, a Sergeant Gerald Watts, was also disciplined for not having turned on his body cam.
And the reason we know this is because a website called Muckrock – which may or may not fall into Childress’ definition of “yellow journalism” – made a public records request and obtained the actual disciplinary reports.
These are reports which he refused to provide to us, so maybe he considers Muckrock “legitimate journalism.”
So either way, the truth came out.
And it wasn’t because The Valdosta Daily News, which he most definitely considers legitimate journalism since it published his piece, had anything to do with it.
But hopefully the lesson is learned because secret policing tears the fabric of the social contract made between the governed and those who would enforce the law.
In this day and age of New Media, the only legitimate journalism is the one that tells the truth. And Childress vowed to be straight up with the media when he took over as chief in 2013.
Citizens of Valdosta need look no further than the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office to see the best example of professional, courteous and lawful law enforcement.
National news sites such as PINAC frequently cover major civil rights violations by police – such as those in Valdosta – and often our only evidence is a video recording.
Who are we to believe?
The video which our “lying eyes” can plainly see or spin by a Chief of Police? In fact, a video often gives more context and far more information than any interview.
Video provides original sourced material, which can be honestly and fairly interpreted.
We are proud to have led the way in reporting by detailed factual analysis and unbiased journalism based upon recorded video evidence. Police departments across America are adopting body cameras for that very reason!
FBI Policing instructor Jim Vance talks about leadership and ethics on his website, including, “Identify key values and guiding principles in an organization of excellence,” and to, “Identify areas of vicarious liability as a result of unethical practices.”
It’s no coincidence Mr. Vance’s “Leadership and Ethics” guidelines say “identify” no less than four times in eight “Outcomes.” If Chief Childress can’t trust Valdosta residents to identify bad cops, then perhaps he is in the wrong place or line of work.
The Blue Wall of Silence is built around lack of identification of police officers who have committed injustice.
The public at large – and in southern Georgia specifically – has a right to know who is taking their hard earned tax dollars to be a police officer, and then turning around and using their badge of authority to violate citizens’ Constitutional rights.
Until the Blue Wall of Silence is breached, there will be little justice, leadership or ethics in policing, which is ultimately bought and paid for by taxpayers’ own funds in Valdosta, Georgia.
The Blue Wall of Silence is built around silence when police commit crime, one brick at a time.