Previous Conferences

Previous Conferences and News

The following information highlights the subject matter of previous conferences in which Criminal Justice Journalists has been involved, from 2002 to the present.







Comparing City and Regional Crime Rates In the Media and Beyond
Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
Jeremy Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri/St. Louis
Eric P. Baumer, University of Missouri/St. Louis
Jeff Rainford, Chief of Staff, Mayor of St. Louis
James Noonan, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Thursday, Nov. 13, 12:30-1:50 p.m., Promenade Ballroom F

How the Media Report Crime News In the 21st Century
Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
Jeremy Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Anthony Sanders, St. Louis Evening Whirl
Margaret Wolf Freivogel, Saint Louis Beacon
Crag Cheatham, KMOV-TV
Thursday, Nov. 13, 3:30-4:50 p.m., Director’s Row 28

How Criminologists Can Deal with the News Media
Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
Jeremy Travis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Thomas G. Blomberg, Florida State University
Doris Layton MacKenzie, University of Maryland
Friday, Nov. 14, 9:30-10:50 a.m., Promenade Ballroom F

Crime and Politics 2009
Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (invited)
Representative of Winning Presidential Campaign
Laurie Robinson, University of Pennsylvania
Charles F. Wellford, University of Maryland
Friday, Nov. 14, 12:30-1:50 p.m., St. Louis Ballroom D




FRIDAY, NOV. 16, 2007

Criminologists And The News Media: Improving Communication Of Research

Chair: Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
Jeremy Travis (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
Tom Blomberg (Florida State University)
Bill Rankin (Atlanta Journal – Constitution)
Heather Vogell (Atlanta Journal – Constitution)





2:15 – 3:15 p.m., Thursday, October 4, 2007

Getting Inside: Crime Beat Investigations
Location: Congressional B, Lobby Level
Description: If you work the cops and courts beat or you’re looking for great investigative ideas, this session is for you. Gaining access to information for these stories can sometimes be tough, but you’ll find help here. A team of crime reporting and access experts will share story ideas and strategies to more effectively cover crime and criminal justice stories.

Speakers: Jeanne Meserve, correspondent, CNN; Allison Klein, The Washington Post; Laura Sullivan, crime and punishment correspondent, NPR; Ted Gest, president, Criminal Justice Journalists





11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

Behind prison walls: Covering restorative justice and other inmate rehab
• Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists (moderator)
• Amanda Crawford, The Arizona Republic
• Gary Fields, The Wall Street Journal
• Dora Schriro, Director, Arizona Department of Corrections

2:30-3:30 p.m.

Police use of force-guns, tasers, and fists
• Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists (moderator)
• Crystal Adams, University of North Texas
• Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic
• Gayle Reaves, Fort Worth Weekly
• Seth Rosenfeld, San Francisco Chronicle

3:40-4:40 p.m.

Recruiting today’s cops – Who are we getting?
• Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists (moderator)
• Scott Decker, Arizona State University
• Tammy Leitner, KPHO-Phoenix
• Tony Lopez, Phoenix Police Department
• Judi Villa, The Arizona Republic





“Today’s Police: Who Are They, Do They Stop Crime, Who Pays for Them?”

Dean Esserman, Chief of Police Providence, R.I.
James Alan Fox, criminologist, Northeastern University
Maria Cramer, Boston Globe crime reporter

moderator: Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists

“Covering Police In An Age of Terrorism” (with the IACP Public Information Officers Section)

Marea Mannion, Pennsylvania State University
Donovan Slack, Boston Globe
Tanya Eiserer, Dallas Morning News

Moderator: Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists


FT. WORTH, TX., JUNE 2006. .

INVESTIGATING PRISONS, Thursday, June 15, 11:40 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

Moderator: Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists

Michele Deitch, University of Texas

Dan Malone, Fort Worth Weekly

Mike Ward, Austin American-Statesman

POLICING THE POLICE – Thursday, June 15, 2:30 p.m.-3:40 p.m.

Moderator, Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists

Tanya Eiserer, Dallas Morning News

Susan Sward, San Francisco Chronicle

Roger Goldman, St. Louis University School of Law

JUDGING JURIES — Friday, June 16, 4:00-5:10 p.m.

Moderator, Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists

Steve McGonigle, Dallas Morning News

Mark Curriden, Vinson & Elkins/Criminal Justice Journalists

Mary Rose, University of Texas at Austin School of Law


Criminal Justice Journalists programs

at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Convention

Miami Beach Convention Center


Have Gun, Will Travel: Pulling the Licenses of Gypsy Cops, 2-3 p.m. Room A 110-111
Prof. Roger Goldman, Saint Louis University School of Law
Ron Menchaca, Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier
Raymond Franklin, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST)
Wanda DeMarzo, Miami Herald

Improving the Coverage of Crime Victims, 3-4 p.m. Room D 128
Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
Anne Seymour, Justice Solutions
Chief N. Frank Winters, Clayton, N.J., chairman, IACP Victim Services Committee
Sgt. Scott Shoemaker, Domestic Violence/Victim Assistance, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, W. Palm Beach, Fl.

Freedom of Criminal Justice Information in the Homeland Security Age 8:30-9:30 a.m. Room C 224
Dana Williams, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Mike Kirsch, WFOR-TV, Miami
Michael Grabell, Dallas Morning News
Department of Homeland Security representative

Miami Chief John Timoney Meets The Media Noon-1 p.m. Room A 209
Chief John Timoney, Miami, Fl.
Susannah Nesmith, Miami Herald

Journalists Discuss Crime Coverage 3-4 p.m. Room B 113
Tanya Eiserer, Dallas Morning News
Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV, Minneapolis

Reception for CJJ attendees 5 p.m.


Media Coverage of Sex Offenders Noon-1 p.m. Room D 241
James Gabbard, Police Chief, Vero Beach, Fl.
Carey Codd, WFOR-TV, Miami
Dana Williams, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Jason Grotto, Miami Herald


Criminal Justice Journalists panels at the Investigative Reporters & Editors convention

Grand Hyatt Hotel — Denver, Colorado

June 2, 2005

11:50 a.m.-1 p.m.
Crime victims: The stats and stories
– Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
– Bonnie Bucqueroux, Michigan State University
– Krista Flannigan, Finegan Flannigan & Associates
– Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain News

2:30-3:40 p.m.
Wrongful convictions and crime lab troubles
– Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
– Roma Khanna, Houston Chronicle
– Barry Mahoney, Justice Management Institute
– Maurice Possley, Chicago Tribune
– Steve Weinberg, Missouri School of Journalism

3:55-5:05 p.m.
Using freedom of information laws in criminal justice issues
– Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists
– Jeff Kass, Rocky Mountain News
– Bill Wallace, San Francisco Chronicle
– Steven Zansberg, Faegre & Benson LLP


John Jay College of Criminal Justice has become the principal sponsor of Crime & Justice News, a daily news digest published by Criminal Justice Journalists, the national organization of journalists covering the field.

Crime & Justice News posts on the Internet and sends by e-mail free to subscribers daily summaries of important news stories in crime and justice nationwide. The service emphasizes significant trends in law enforcement, courts, and punishment policy. Available at, CJN was started in April 2003 with a grant from the Butler Family Fund in Washington, D.C. Additional support was received from the Wadsworth Publishing Co., a leading criminal justice publisher. The Web site is managed by MN-8 Systems, which also operates the Web site of the Police Executive Research Forum.

The Web site includes a searchable archive of more than 5,300 news items.

Support from John Jay College will enable Crime & Justice News to develop more original material that will be useful both to journalists and to criminal-justice practitioners. “We plan to cover research from academic and government experts that has the potential of improving media coverage and criminal justice policy making,” said Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and editor of CJN.

“We’re pleased to be forging a new relationship with the Crime & Justice News Web site, which reaches an important audience of journalists who help shape the debate on issues of critical concern to those of us involved in the study of law enforcement policies and public safety,” said John Jay College’s President Jeremy Travis. “Ted Gest is bringing crime reporters together on the Internet for the first time and John Jay wants to be part of that discussion.”

Gest formerly covered criminal justice issues for U.S. News & World Report and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Criminal Justice Journalists operates other programs, including an Internet discussion list for journalists and educational forums at national meetings of criminologists and police chiefs. CJJ is based in Washington, D.C., and affiliated with the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology of the University of Pennsylvania.

Travis was appointed in August of last year to lead John Jay. He had served during the Clinton administration as the director of the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. An advisor to former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, Travis also served as Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters for the New York City Police Department. Before joining John Jay, Travis was a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “But They All Come Back” (Urban Institute Press), a critical look at the failure of the criminal justice system and the nation to adequately address issues related to the release of more than 600,000 prisoners who are returned to our communities each year with little or no support.

John Jay College, part of The City University of New York, has an enrollment of more than 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 135 nations and 338 full-time faculty members. John Jay is a liberal arts college dedicated to education, research, and service in the fields of criminal justice, fire science, and related areas of public safety, security management and public service.

Crime & Justice News is available by e-mail to those who sign up on its Web site.


Criminal Justice Journalists held panel discussions at the International Association of Chiefs of Police on November 15, 2004 and the American Society of Criminology on November 17-18, 2004.

The news media are faring reasonably well in the “brave new world” of reporting on terrorism, says John Miller, former ABC News correspondent who is now heading Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton’s counterterrorism unit. Miller and two law enforcement officials, Matthew McLaughlin of the FBI and Dennis Murphy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spoke to Criminal Justice Journalists on Nov. 15, 2004 at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Los Angeles.

McLaughlin and Murphy said that federal officials realize that news outlets need to report immediately on terror incidents. “No longer does ‘no comment’ work,” McLaughlin said. He recalled that when an El Al ticket agent was shot at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002, the FBI refused to say anything for three hours, and television broadcasts were full of speculation about the case that proved erroneous. “That was our fault,” he said. “Something has to be said. If there are problems, generally it’s our fault if we aren’t providing information.”

The Homeland Security Department is working closely with representatives of major print and broadcast media with the aim of getting information out on a terror episode within an hour of its occurrence, Murphy said. The department also is working with the Radio-Television News Directors Association to hold regional training sessions for journalists on covering terrorism. Miller said that the Los Angeles Police Department has held day-long training sessions for local media, too. One subject is how dangerous it might be for journalists to be exposed to toxic substances that terrorists might use. Most media are reporting “responsibly,” Murphy said, although “a few will jump out and embarrass themselves” [with incorrect information].

Many news organizations have reported over the last few years on bulletins that the Homeland Security Department and FBI issue to the thousands of local law enforcement agencies on terrorist threats. At first, some officials in Washington were surprised that these bulletins promptly. Now, says Murphy, federal agencies realize that “it will get out, no matter how highly classified” it is, so the bulletins are routinely provided to the media as they are sent out nationwide.

The lineup of speakers at CJJ panels at the police chiefs meeting:


Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times, moderator

Miles Corwin, former Los Angeles Times reporter, author of “Killing Season,” about Los Angeles homicide detectives

Joe Domanick, author of “Cruel Justice,” about California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law

Denise Hamilton, former Los Angeles Times reporter, author of “Last Lullaby” and other crime novels


Greg Krikorian, Los Angeles Times, moderator

John Miller, Los Angeles Police Department counterterrorism unit and former ABC News correspondent

Matthew McLaughlin, FBI

Dennis Murphy, Director of Communications for Border and Transportation Security, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

WHEN THE MEDIA ARE UNFAIR (with Public Information Officer Section of IACP)

Ed Buice, News Director, WUSY-FM, Chattanooga, Tn.


November 17 at the Freedom Forum, Nashville

Jim Lynch, The American University

John Eck, University of Cincinnati


November 18 at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel

Dr. Bruce Levy, Medical Examiner, State of Tennessee

Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General, Lawrenceburg, TN

Novembere 18 at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel

12:30 – 2 p.m. Thursday, November 18

Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists, moderator

Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon University

Thom Feucht, National Institute of Justice

Laurie Robinson, University of Pennsylvania

Charles Wellford, University of Maryland



Criminal Justice Journalists co-sponsored three panel discussions on the first day of the four-day Investigative Reporters & Editors annual meeting, June 17, 2004, in Atlanta..

Subjects included

How to Cover the Federal Justice System
(U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story, federal prosecutor Sally Quillian Yates, defense attorney Donald F. Samuel; David Burnam, TRAC; Bill Rankin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Prisons and Sentencing–How Budget-Strapped States are Coping
(Stephen Bright, Adam Gelb, Carla Crowder, Birmingham News; Jenifer Warren, Los Angeles Times)

DNA–Getting the Facts on the Science and the Law
(Christopher Asplen, Richard Willing, USA Today; Anna Werner and David Raziq, KHOU-TV)

Audio tapes are available at $10 each from Sound Images Inc. Visit the Web site and click on Associations, then Investigative Reporters & Editors, for details. Panel numbers for tape-ordering purposes are IRE04-018 (federal justice system), IRE04-023 (prisons and sentencing), and IRE04-028 (DNA)



A report by Criminal Justice Journalists treasurer Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer-Press, on panels sponsored by CJJ, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, and the National Center for Courts and Media of the National Judicial College, in Philadelphia, fall 2003

Thursday, October 23, 2003 at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Court Records/Prospects for Online Access

David Price and Daryl Walker, staff attorneys, Pennsylvania court system
Teri Henning, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association
Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

Access to courts is governed by a presumption of openness, more so in criminal court, said Henning. That presumption applies to pre-trial proceedings and documents, which should be available for inspection and copying at a reasonable fee. Redacted information on such documents may include the names of minors and victims of a sexual crime. Other available documents include arrest and search warrants, and affidavits of probable cause. A reporter can challenge the sealing of warrants. Civil discovery documents, such as depositions, are presumed non-public.

Juvenile records are also non-public, unless the offender is 14 and older and charged with a serious violent felony such as murder, kidnapping, rape, etc. In a 2002 case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the presumption of openness applies to juvenile dependency proceedings. See In the Interest of M.B., 819 A. 2d 59 (Pa.Super. 2002). Although the court ultimately upheld the closure in that case, in a subsequent unreported decision, the Superior Court reversed a lower court’s closure and required the court to hold a hearing prior to closing the juvenile proceeding.

Those seeking closure of such proceedings shoulder the burden of convincing the judge.

Police incident reports are public; however, supplementals, where much of the narrative and detail exists on a case, are not public, Henning explained. Accident reports are also not public.

Walker and Price discussed the threat of wide online access to the historic protection that “practical obscurity” has provided most court files, which can include Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information. Having such information now posted online after business hours and available to potentially millions of readers could expose people to the fast growing crime of identity theft. That specter could lead to the restriction of certain data online that might still be available on paper at the courthouse. Currently, online information is generally limited to case docket numbers and basic litigant information. Price said some benefits for online access include 24/7 availability to a wider public audience, greater government accountability, and more effective use of limited court manpower resources. Walker pointed out another problem: case expungement. If a person’s criminal record or offense is expunged after it has been available online, “the cat’s already out of the bag.”

Morgan-Besecker likes the federal court’s PACER system, which provides online access to case docket information, and in some cases, actual files that are made available through ECF imaging. But the lack of online information in most cases forces her to drive on occasion 20 miles to a courthouse to obtain what little information there might be about a case.

Useful links: (note: no www)


Restorative Justice and Specialized Courts

Louis Presenza, President Judge, Philadelphia Municipal Court
A 47-year old graduate of a local treatment program
Brenda Morrison, Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania and Australian National University

Morrison explained restorative justice, an umbrella term describing a mostly indigenous process of atonement, accountability and victim empowerment. The concepts, are borrowed from Maori traditions, Native American community circles, and other cultural practices, “It’s about restoration and reintegration,” said Morrison. New Zealand’s juvenile court system adopted restorative justice principles as a mainstream process after a 1989 report found a significant drop in juvenile recidivism rates.

Presenza said the nation’s first drug court was established in Florida 14 years ago. One of its main supporters was Janet Reno, who as a local prosecutor saw it as more effective than imprisonment in treating non-violent drug offenders with substance abuse problems. Pennsylvania’ first drug court began in Philadelphia in 1997. Now there are about 1,000 drug courts across the nation and in 12 foreign countries. One of the largest and most innovative is located in Minneapolis.

Presenza reeled off facts about the strong connection between substance abuse and crimes such as drunk driving, rapes, domestic violence, and assaults. In 1996, Philadelphia’s First Judicial District reported 43,799 criminal filings, with about 8,064 drug-related. By 2002, drug-related crimes accounted for more than 20,000 or one-third of the roughly 60,000 criminal filings in 2002.

The long and short term medical costs of substance abuse costs Americans $133 billion annually, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Presenza, a strong proponent of the drug court system, believes such courts are cost effective and also give offenders a realistic second shot that lowers recidivism rates. In order to buy into the drug court concept, ” you need judicial leadership and a prosecutor who has a lot of guts, courage and conviction,” Presenza said. “It does take a team effort.”

The three main goals of drug court are:
1. Break the cycle of criminal or delinquent behavior
2. Protect society through quality treatment
3. Provide an alternative to incarceration

Presenza added that because clients come with multiple social issues in addition to the drug problem, the drug court setting provides a better way to address homelessness, unemployment, and other obstacles. “You have to deal with all these issues if you want to make them whole,” he said.

A woman whose case Presenza handled gave a riveting account of how a law-abiding, productive member of society can hit rock bottom and plunge into a pit of despair and desperation that leads to criminal behavior. The woman, whose name was not given, grew up in a Christian home and after college went to work as a medical secretary for a local pharmaceutical company. A single mom, she began hanging out with hard-partying co-workers. Soon, she gained a crack cocaine habit and lost her job. Fifteen years later, she found herself running a crack house and pushing the same poison she told her own daughter to stay way from. “I no longer cared about my daughter,” she said. “I didn’t care about eating, sleeping, bathing.” She asked God for help in her rock-bottom moment. He answered with a phalanx of cops raiding the crack house and busting her for felony drug sale and possession, a crime that even for a first-time offender could expose her to several years in prison. “God did answer my prayer,” she said of her arrest.

She appeared before Presenza and swore she would change. He pulled out a license plate from Missouri, his native state, and said: “Show Me.” Instead of jail, she underwent a 90-day intensive treatment program, followed by months of supervision and job and housing support. “Recovery is not just about getting off drugs,” she said. “‘Recovery is about change.” She has been sober two years, gainfully employed, and making a stable home.

“I’m happy, joyous and free,” she said. Presenza noted that in Philadelphia, the average cost of treatment is $2,600 a year. The average cost of locking an offender in a city jail is $27,375. “These courts do work, and work well,” he said.

Covering Criminal Courts and the Justice Process

Frederica Massiah-Jackson, President Judge, First Judicial District, Philadelphia
Tom Ferrick, Jr., Philadelphia Inquirer

Massiah-Jackson stressed that the courts are moving to forge a better relationship with the local media, but under canons of judicial ethics, judges are prohibited from commenting on ongoing cases. The Philadelphia court system does not have a public information officer, which makes her office the de facto contact for reporters and the referral center for judges responding to media inquiries. Pennsylvania prohibits cameras in the courtroom, a policy Massiah-Jackson supports.

Ferrick, a veteran columnist, pointed out that the news media usually concentrate on a tiny percentage of cases that are handled by the court system annually. He advocates more reporting on the majority of cases, which are usually drug-related and are adjudicated through guilty pleas or plea bargains. (Massiah-Jackson said that 17,000 cases each year are handled in a program in which defendants waive jury trials.) Ferrick noted that the adoption of New York City’s vaunted COMSTAT police accountability system and quality of life arrest philosophy dramatically increased the number of court cases, leading to a 50 percent dismissal rate by overwhelmed judges already dealing with annual caseload surges. It reminds him of the “I love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Fred’s wife are working at a factory and are comically trying to grapple with a rapidly speeding candy assembly line belt that quickly overwhelms them.

Covering Judicial Elections

Lynn Marks, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts
Tom Ferrick, Jr., Philadelphia Inquirer

There was concern about the potential impact of last year’s Supreme Court decision on judicial speech–which said judicial candidates could voice their opinions on issues–will have on future elections. Marks disputed the stereotype that such elections are boring and therefore not worthy of news media coverage. She noted that there are stories to dig up about the individuals or entities contributing to judicial campaigns; often they are fronts for either partisan political groups or special interest citizen groups.

Marks said her organization supports restrictions on what a judicial candidate can say or discuss during a campaign. “It could cut into impartiality,” she said. “A judge is supposed to decide cases on the facts of laws and not on the campaign trails.” Marks acknowledged that a substantial portion of campaign contributions come from lawyers and other legal special interest groups that often come before the courts.

The loosening of restrictions, she believes, is giving rise to campaigns that have as much the potential for mud slinging and attack ads as regular political races. “The tone and conduct of judicial elections are growing worse,” she says. When covering such campaigns, she advises, reporters should keep an eye on whether party politics is playing a role.

Ferrick also has concerns about the Supreme Court ruling, but he believes that although Americans may say they would likely vote in judicial elections, that does not necessarily mean they will actually vote when Election Day comes around. He doubts that judges will comment on inside baseball legal issues such as tort and libel reform, and degenerate into rhetoric “I’ll be tough on crime” sound bites to win votes.

Marks and Ferrick agreed that when it comes to judicial elections, surnames rule.

In many cases, having the right last name can swing the election, depending on the ethnic-demographic makeup of the dominant voting bloc. “In many cases, if you are running for judge, you should consider changing your name,” Ferrick says. “Right now, we don’t have the tools to determine whether someone would make a good judge or not.”

Friday, October 24, 2003, at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, Pennsylvania Convention Center

Crime Trends and Police Departments

Craig McCoy, Philadelphia Inquirer
John Timoney, Police Chief, Miami; former Police Commissioner, Philadelphia

McCoy outlined the contributions of Timoney as Philadelphia’s top cop. They included the introduction of COMSTAT to police the city more effectively, and more openness between police and the media than in previous administrations. McCoy said the environment before Timoney’s reign was “hostile.” Timoney allowed outside women’s advocate groups, with some conditions, to review rape and sex assault files in the wake of a police numbers-cooking scandal that was discovered and investigated by the Inquirer. The unprecedented practice continues: the reviews are conducted monthly and the reviewers have the buy-in to make suggestions, or even ask police to reinvestigate cases.
McCoy called the city’s computer mapping of crimes and its willingness to share reports with the news media and the public a “goldmine” for stories. He noted that San Diego posts its online crime reports in “real time,” one of the few police agencies offering that service to the public.

Timoney spoke about his accomplishments in more detail, responded to the Inquirer series on the police stats controversy and opined on news-police relations. “We had a PIO in New York by the name of Ray O’Donnell,” said Timoney, who was a veteran New York Police Department commander before his Philly gig. O’Donnell said reporters generally desired a “bad story about a cop and a good story about a fireman — that’s what sells papers.”

Timoney is a strong proponent of openness between news media and cops at every level of the force. He blames some myopic police agencies for not doing enough to cultivate a positive public image through the media. “They are going to get the bad stories anyway,” he said. “But there are an awful lot of good stories. The mentality is that ‘we don’t like them, we don’t trust them– you shut them out.’ ”

In the early 1980s, NYPD police brass underwent guerrilla-style training on media culture, nomenclature, managing a public relations crisis, and speaking in front of microphones and TV cameras. In Philly, Timoney found a public confidence of the police that was so shaken and so low that “we were going to need the press to get it going.” He established a more professional PIO section. A new policy allowed cops, from the beat patrolman to district commander, to speak to the news media, as long as they did not comment or release details that could compromise an active investigation or make policy pronouncements that should come from headquarters. Reporters and the public were allowed to attend weekly COMSTAT meetings, where district commanders are held accountable about crime patterns, trends and problem-solving efforts under their jurisdiction. “That policy remains in effect today,” Timoney said. “The operational philosophy was to work with the press.”

On the enforcement side, Timoney placed more of a focus on investigating drug-related shootings, rationalizing that one incident may be connected to a series of others because of the warring-retaliation nature endemic to the street drug trade. The effort led to the arrests of survivors, primarily for their own protection. He recalled one case in which a shooting victim was let go from a hospital at 4 a.m. and by eight he was back in a body bag, apparently by the same rivals who had shot him earlier.

When Timoney became commissioner in 1998, the Inquirer was already in the midst of writing a string of exposes on police report discrepancies. Timoney suspected the paper was right, but did not agree that the cooking of numbers, which made the city appear safer than it really was, was intentional. He blamed more lack of training, shoddy record keeping, and improper crime coding. Most of the problem rested with the way sex crimes were being reported and logged on reports. “I think they (Inquirer) saw evil at every step of the way,” he said. “I saw incompetence, improperly conducted investigations. Some of the people put there were incompetent in one or two cases, and I’m being kind.” Reforms included specially trained detectives, and bringing in outsiders, including criminologists, to improve reporting standards, as well as the monthly reviews. “They took what was a national disgrace, and turned it into a national model,” Timoney said.

Timoney noted the lessons learned from a notorious serial rapist case that led to the revamping of the city police’s DNA crime lab, as well as narrowing DNA testing mostly to stranger-rape cases. He described the Inquirer series as “pretty fair coverage,” but had personal peeves about how some of the news media go about their work. He emphasized that quotes must not only be accurate, but in context, as should not be used as an independent clause to fit into a certain angle or story theme.

He mentioned that some columnists bend the truth. “He’s entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts.” Timony has no problem “shutting down” bad reporters who get things wrong, or approaching news managers and editors and pointing out inaccuracies or seeking redress. He intimated that police departments are harmed long term by not allowing the news media to talk to cops directly involved in investigations or events. “It’s great for them, for their families and in the end for the department,” he said.

How Philadelphia Tracks Crime

Charles Brennan, deputy commissioner. Philadelphia Police Department

Brennan provided a demonstration on the uses of COMSTAT and crime map overlays.
He has concerns about the reliability of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, and pointed out the lack or resources that most local and state law enforcement agencies face in trying to take advantage of federal crime databases such as the National Crime Information Center and others. He noted faults with the Crime Information Services Advisory Board, which sets access policy. He says the 35-member board decides what cops see across the country. Members come from mostly small police agencies; Philadelphia is the largest represented on the board. Small town police chiefs decide “what cops in Los Angeles and New York can see,” Brennan said. He encouraged reporters to attend board meeting, which are open and occur twice a year in different cities.

He believes the country should be moving toward biometric technology in identifying suspects as well as airport travelers.

Lessons from Media Coverage of the Washington, D.C., Sniper Case

Sari Horwitz, Washington Post
Angie Cannon, U.S. News & World Report
Lucille Baur, public information officer, Montgomery County, Md., Police Department

The sniper case was the largest manhunt in American history. Police issued more than 1,300 credentials to reporters during the event.

On the year’s anniversary of the sniper suspects’ capture, Horwitz and Cannon spoke about writing books on the case that sought to chronicle what went on behind he scenes. Both reporters were spared daily assignments to write the books.

Horwitz said her book, written with Michael Ruane, concentrated mostly on two main investigators, but also involved scores of interviews with dozens of members of various law enforcement agencies that played key roles in the case. By sending letters to many of the investigators, she and Ruane were able to present a more complete picture of the case, as well a better explain the world of an investigator in an incident that became known internationally. Some agencies did not cooperate or were unwilling to talk about their roles. The result, she said, was that they “got shut out of this chronicle of history.”

Some lessons learned:
–the case highlighted the important role of the media and the public. It was the media transmission of the suspect car’s license plate that led to the arrest an hour later at a roadside rest stop by a driver who recalled the license plate numbers on the news.
–make sure to use two sources on exclusive information. Using one source burned a Washington Post reporter, even though it was a highly reliable source.
–the importance of beat reporting. Horwitz emphasized the great need to use cop, courts and suburban reporters on assignment, rather then relying on a team of investigative reporters who won’t be as well plugged in to law enforcement.
–the need to not interfere and allow investigators to do their jobs. Many times, reporters beat cops to the homes of victims’ family members and other potential witnesses to shootings. More often than not, she said, reporters allowed cops to conduct interviews before entering the homes or otherwise contacting the same people.

Cannon advised taking a step back while the media frenzy is going on, and to scrutinize every tip or lead before going public. She also noted that since many of the reporters also had families in the killing zone, they appeared more sensitive to news items and more tolerant and patient to allow the police manhunt to continue without too much criticism.

Baur advised law enforcement that a case of such magnitude warrants an expansion of public information personnel to handle the onslaught from news media from around the world. She also stressed the importance of police to keep the public informed of developments through the media. “They have a right to know what’s going on and in many cases a need to know,” she said. Baur recommends that police agencies develop a plan on how to deal and interact with the media before a crisis event occurs. She spoke with emotion about the decision to have a statement read that it appeared the sniper was targeting adults, and that children would be safe if they went to school. A day after that statement was aired, the sniper killed a 14-year old on his way to school. “We learned that we could not guarantee everyone’s safety, that no one was off limits,” she said.

Baur said the sniper case presented police a daily if not hourly challenge in constantly weighing public safety versus the public’s right to know. She confirmed that investigators were communicating with the sniper through coded words or phrases that were aired without the media’s advance knowledge. Baur pointed out that some news media outlets, mostly on the TV side, went on the air with wrong and, she suspected, made-up information. She recalled CNN running a composite sketch of the sniper, even though police had not made one. A TV camera crew secretly took photographs at a police command post and assumed they were sketches of the gunman.

Despite the often “stressful situation, it was incumbent upon the PIO team handling the sniper case to remain professional and hand out information that was accurate, timely and consistent,” she said. “Give out as much information as soon as possible without impacting the investigation, she said.

Media And Public Access to Records (available on tape–see details below)

Tony Hanson, KYW News Radio
William Colarulo, Inspector/public information officer Philadelphia Police Department
Warren Carmichael, retired public information officer, Fairfax County, Va., Police Department

Hanson divided his description of police-media access relations in Philadelphia as “Before Timoney and After Timoney.” Before Timoney became commissioner in 1998, “Public affairs was a black hole,” Hanson said. “No information on anything good or bad. The philosophy was, don’t tell.” After Timoney, Hanson said, there was more access to records and police meetings. “I believe it has created more good will in the city,” he said. “People have become more familiar with the police and how they work.”

Colarulo echoed Hanson’s assessment and said the mission of the police’s public information officer section is to “be as transparent as possible to the public.” He noted that the monthly COMSTAT crime report meetings are open to the public. “People who live in those neighborhoods have a right to be there,” he said.

Carmichael is wary of such an open door policy. He mentioned that under current statutes or policies in Fairfax County, Va., officials have 5-7 days to respond to a request for information release, “so nothing is going to be gained by filing” a freedom of information act request. He subscribes to a policy of “maximum discretion and minimum mandatory release.” Carmichael stresses the need for agencies to have a written protocol to handle news media during a hostage/barricade crisis, which raises concerns about the incident’s perimeter concerns as well as the prospect of helicopter traffic that not only makes it more difficult for commanders on the ground to hear the suspect or each other, but could compromise tactical positions if the air shot is broadcast live.

Carmichael believes that tightening of information hospitals can give out about a patient has the potential of hampering investigations. In cases of a medical emergency that may have terrorist overtones, Carmichael questions privacy issues that could delay investigators in identifying suspects or terrorist acts as they are unfolding.

Colarulo said that a police chief, as well as commanders, set the tone and the policy for how open or closed a department will be in dealing with the news media or the public. Colarulo said Philadelphia has 23 district commanders, and some are more open than others in allowing reporters to talk to their charges about news events.

News Media Coverage of Police Scandals (available on tape–see details below)

Mark Fazlollah, Philadelphia Inquirer
Terry Ruggles, WCAU-TV, NBC 10
John Skinner, Chief of Police, Port St. Lucie, FL

Skinner began with a story of how his officers handled a domestic assault complaint at the home of the city manager. The manager was arrested a few days later, but Skinner was criticized for an appearance of preferential treatment by telling the man over the phone the night of the incident that he would be arrested if he returned to the home.
Skinner said his intent was never to give the man a pass, but the event reinforced his attitude toward the news media. “Be upfront, take your lumps,” Skinner said. “If something happens, it happened. Florida is a very open state and as a result, it makes me a better chief in the end.”

Ruggles was blunt about the number one motivator of the TV news business: money. The average news spot is 90 seconds, with an in-depth report perhaps 20 or 30 seconds longer. News directors demand more pieces, sacrificing quality for quantity.

Fazlollah summarized the Inquirer series of reports on the way Philadelphia cops were reporting certain crimes, particularly sexual assaults. “There were wild disparities in the reporting of crimes,” he said. “(Police) hid about 300 rapes a year, making the city look a lot safer than it was.” He suggested reporters scrutinize and put in context any police statistic that comes their way. He explained the unreliability of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. For example, if one incident involves a murder and a rape, it will be counted in the UCR as a murder, and the rape vanishes. He also pointed out that “big cities tend to report things differently than do small towns.” He called for better and more uniform reporting by police departments across the country.

Skinner acknowledged the crime reporting problems, and suggested reporters challenge police executives about them. “Give me the challenge because it will make me a better executive,” he said. “We do get complacent. And some cops will code the crime off. Cops unfortunately take short cuts.”

Skinner stressed the need for police executives to step in front of the notepads and the microphones during high profile incidents or controversies. “It is incumbent to be the front man on major issues,” he said. “Putting the public information officer in there is cowardice on issues of public trust. Sometimes, chiefs lose sight of the job they were hired to do.” The chief added that the COMSTAT concept makes for more effective departments and also make commanders more accountable. But at the same time, it can create too much pressure and could prompt some executives to “cook” the numbers. He pointed out that COMPSTAT does not count unreported crime. “‘It’s impossible to get an accurate account on crime,” he said.

The last two discussions are available on tape.

#174–access to records (one tape or 1 audio CD)

#177–media coverage of law enforcement (one tape or 2 audio CDs)

Order from National Audio Video, Inc. 4465 Washington St., Denver, Col. 80216,
phone 1-800-373-2952 (9-5 MST), email to

Price: $11 per tape, $16 per audio CD session, plus $2 shipping



A new daily news service on crime and justice issues was started by Criminal Justice Journalists
on April 15, 2003. Supported by a grant from the Butler Family Fund, CJJ is summarizing up
to a dozen stories from around the nation every weekday, providing direct links to original sources.

The aim is to inform journalists, criminal justice practitioners, and the general public of the most signifcant news of the day. The emphasis is on how criminal justice agencies deal with policy issues, including police manpower, court dockets, and effective corrections programs.
The news service also reports on significant personnel changes and on individual cases that have an impact on the justice system and on public opinion.

Crime and Justice News will appear each day by late morning at, a Web site operated by the Mn-8 Corporation, which also manages the Web site of the Police Executive Research Forum. A free e-mail version of the daily report may be obtained by messaging, with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

Comments and story ideas should be submitted to Ted Gest,



Criminal Justice Journalists has issued the first installment of a guide
for journalists on covering crime and justice issues. The guide, funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation, covers basic issues in covering the police beat, drugs, juvenile crime, crime victims, racial and ethnic issues in criminal justice, and ethics in covering criminal justice.

Future installments will cover other important issues, including courts, the prosecution process, corrections, guns, and capital punishment.

We urge all CCR list members to bookmark

The guide, which was posted in mid-April 2003, is housed on the Web site of the Institute for Justice and Journalism of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication.



Criminal Justice Journalists sponsored three panel discussions at the Investigative
Reporters and Editors (IRE) annual convention in Washington this June.

The panels covered

Doing a better job interpreting crime statistics — panel 015

How to evaluate your local law enforcement agency — panel 019

Judging judges: from campaigns to secrecy to operations — panel 022

To order audiotapes or audio CDs, send $11 per audiotape or $16 per audio
CD, plus $1 shipping charge per audiotape/CD, to Sound Images, Inc.,
7388 South Revere Parkway #806, Englewood, CO 80112. Use
the panel designation numbers given above.

Call 888-649-1118 for more information.



A six-day conference for journalists on juvenile crime issues was sponsored from March 9-14, 2003, by the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families.

About 30 print and broadcast journalists were chosen to take part. Nationally recognized experts discussed why some youths become criminals or victims; the causes of juvenile delinquency; trends in adjudication, detention and treatment; building resiliency; the politics of juvenile crime and other subjects. Ted Gest of Criminal Justice Journalists helped set up the program.


On November 14, 2002, the Chicago Headline Club and Criminal Justice Journalists held a program with experts attending the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting

Media coverage of the Washington area sniper(s)-was it responsible?

Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon University

Race, region, and death sentencing in Illinois

Glenn L. Pierce, Northeastern University, and Michael L. Radelet University of Colorado, discussed their research for Gov. George Ryan’s Commission on Capital Punishment

Linking Research and Practice to Reduce Firearms Violence: Project Safe

Edmund F. McGarrell, Michigan State University

Missing children: Who are they? How many really are abducted each year?

David Finkelhor, Crimes Against Children Research Center, Family Research Laboratory, Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire; leader, federal survey of missing, abducted, runaway, and thrownaway children

5 – 7 p.m. Thursday, November 14
Wabash Room, Palmer House Hilton Hotel


CJJ sponsored three earlier meetings in 2002 for journalists on crime and justice issues. The first, on Better Court Coverage, was held at the
Investigative Reporters and Editors convention in San Francisco on May 30.

A second court conference took place in Denver on July 25. Our third
meeting will occur Sun.-Tues. Oct. 6-8 in Minneapolis during the
International Association of Chiefs of Police convention. Court reporter
sessions were held Oct. 8 at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

IACP program — Minneapolis Convention Center

Flying while Muslim? Racial profiling after 9/11 — Room 102A
Sunday, October 6, 1-2:30 p.m.

Lorie Fridell, Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, D.C.
Tom Johnson, Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice, Minneapolis, Mn.
William Finney, Chief of Police, St. Paul, Mn.
Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Mn., moderator

Terrorism: 1st Amendment and Responsible Journalism–a Delicate Balance” — Room 200FG

Sunday, October 6, 3-4:30 p.m..
Jane Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law, School of Journalism
and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Mn.
Terry Frieden, CNN, Washington
Randy Furst, Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Mn.
Joel Carlson, retired FBI special agent in charge, Louisville, Ky.
Paul McCabe, FBI public information officer, Minneapolis, Mn.
Michael Sale, general vice chair, IACP public information section,

Who polices the police? What is excessive force? — Room 101C
Monday, Oct. 7, 9-10:30 a.m.

Samuel E. Walker, University of Nebraska, Omaha, Ne.
William Finney, Chief of Police, St. Paul, Mn.
Scott Harr, Criminal Justice Department chair, Concordia University
Caroline Lowe, WCCO 4 News, Minneapolis, Mn., moderator

Suicide: Reporting Myths May Lead to a Contagion Effect — Room 200FG

Monday, Oct. 7, 2-:3:30 p.m.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Dean, Annenberg School of Communication, University
of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Patrick Jamieson, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Dr. Jeff Magers, assistant professor of criminal justice, Stephen F. Austin
State University, Nacogdoches, Tx.
Ed Buice, media director, Chattanooga Police Department, Chattanooga, Tn.
Penny Parrish, Law Enforcement Communications Unit, FBI Academy,
Quantico, Va., moderator

Crime and the Mentally Ill — Room 101C
Monday, Oct. 7, 3:45-5 p.m.

Sue Abderholden, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Minneapolis, Mn.
David Chanen, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Mn.
Robert M.A. Johnson, County Attorney, Anoka, Mn.
Robert Olson, Chief of Police, Minneapolis, Mn.

Court Coverage Panels
(at Minneapolis Star Tribune, corner of Fifth Street and
Portland Avenue, Minneapolis)

Tuesday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Access denied?

Paul Gustafson, court reporter, Star Tribune
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney
Sue Dosal, Minnesota Court Administrator
Chris Graves, Star Tribune, Moderator

Judicial right of speech?

How a new U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Minnesota
case opens doors for judges to air their views during
judicial elections

George Soule, chairman, Minnesota Judicial Merit Selection Commission
Elizabeth Stawicki, legal affairs reporter, Minnesota Public Radio
Ed Cleary, Ramsey County District Court Judge
Greg Wersal, lawyer, former judicial candidate
Hannah Allam, legal affairs correspondent, St. Paul Pioneer Press,

Lunch will be provided by the National Center for Courts and
Media of the National Judicial College


Program for our court conference in Denver:


Thursday, July 25, 2002
1301 Pennsylvania St., Denver, Colorado

With the Office of the Colorado State Court Administrator, Colorado Press Association, and
the National Center for Courts and Media, National Judicial College

· Public access: on-line and in-person access to electronic court files
· Covering federal courts
· How to cover problem-solving courts
· You be the judge


9-10 a.m. Public access: on-line and in-person access to electronic court files

Justice Gregory Hobbs, Jr., Colorado Supreme Court

Linda Bowers, Public Access Manager, Office of the Colorado State Court Administrator

Bob Roper, Director, Integrated Information Services, Office of the Colorado State Court Administrator

Ted Gest, Criminal Justice Journalists, moderator

10:00-10:15 Media guide to the courts, updates, media advisories

Diane Hartman, Director of Communications, Colorado Bar Association

Karen Salaz, Information, Public Information, Communications Coordinator, Office of the Colorado State Court Administrator

10:15-11:45 a.m. Covering federal courts

Judge Deanell Reece Tacha, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

U.S. Attorney John Suthers, District of Colorado

James Manspeaker, Clerk of the Court, U.S. District Court, Distirct of Colorado

Robert Boczkiewicz, federal court reporter for newspapers, Reuters, television, moderator

12-1:15 P.M. Open forum with judges on trends for cover coverage, judicial election coverage, when judges can and cannot talk to the media

Judge Lewis Babcock, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado

Justice Gregory Hobbs, Jr., Colorado Supreme Court

Judge Raymond Satter, Presiding Judge, Denver County Court, 2nd Judicial District Staste of Colorado

1:30-2:30 p.m. How to cover “problem-solving” courts handling drugs, domestic violence, mental health, other special subjects

District Attorney Bill Ritter, City and County of Denver

Judge William Dressel, President, National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada

Judge Harlan Bockman, Chief Judge, 17th Judicial District, State of Colorado

Craig Truman, Craig L. Truman, P.C., veteran public defender

2:30-3:30 You be the judge

Find out what it feels like to be on the other side of the bench. A fact pattern is established, facts in the case explained, and sentencing options and constraints outlined; you have to sentence the defendant in this domestic violence case.

Judge James Breese, Denver County Court, 2nd Judicial District, State of Colorado


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