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Covering Cops

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Covering Cops

I have a pretty good relationship with the local sheriff’s office (The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, District IV).  Part of that comes from the fact that I respect the heck out of them.  Every officer I’ve met – from the top brass to the deputies have been respectful, professional and personable.  Due to that relationship, however, interviews tend to be more along the lines of a personal conversation than a media event.  In other words, my digital recorder picks up stuff that, were I an evil and exploitative journalist, I could easily take out of context to create some pretty juicy headlines.  Once, anyway (because I would never get another opportunity).  Because I do have such respect, and because they have earned the respect, I work hard to ensure that I don’t do that sort of thing.  I want to do right by them.  As such, writing such an article can be a bit nerve-wracking.  Should I include this or that?  What about that quote?  How will people interpret this?  Last week I interviewed HCSO Major Ron Hartley – he had some great news in that the crime rate for the area had been cut in half over the past four years, even while the population of the area increased.  I tried to do right by them.  Not because I owe them anything, not because I have a relationship — but because it was the right thing to do.  Besides, he’s a very good man.

Also, getting photos from cops is not always easy.  No one officer ever wants to be seen as the center of attention.  The Major here, wanted everyone but him to get the credit for the reduced crime rate.  But the readers need something (in this case, someone) to focus on.

 (Mitch Traphagen)

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