The St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy has responded to the uproar over their course on how to handle media after an officer-involved shooting, and the instructor says he’s “outraged” that anyone would “read between the lines.”
Police Academy spokesman Brian Schellman sort of apologizes in the usual non-apology “if anyone was offended” way:
Schellman also issued the following statement: “Chief of Police Jon Belmar and his command staff were unaware of the flier and its wording until the subject was brought up by several members of the media. The St. Louis County Police Department recognizes the sensitive nature of this flier in the wake of Mr. Brown’s death, and the events that transpired in Ferguson. This flier has been worded in nearly the same manner for all of Mr. Rosenthal’s prior teachings at our academy, with the exception of the newly added lines referencing Ferguson. Being that the flier was sent by our police academy, we apologize for anyone hurt by the wording of the flier. We believe Mr. Rosenthal’s use of the terms ‘900-pound gorilla’ and ‘feeding the animals’ were mentioning police departments from across the nation dealing with the media and meant no racial harm.”
The instructor, Rick Rosenthal, focuses on the racially-charged language, denying he meant it that way — but completely missing the point that the entire idea of a “highly entertaining” course teaching police how to control and “handle” the media after gunning someone down is, in itself, pretty outrageous.
Rosenthal said that was nothing racial about his flier.
“It’s outrageous that someone would try to read between lines and make something out of nothing,” he said.
He also issued a statement, which read in part: “The term ‘feeding the animals’ is a tongue-in-cheek reference to dealing with mainstream news media reporters (the ‘animals’ - I used to be one, myself.) The term ‘900 pound gorilla’ is a similar tongue-in-cheek reference to news reporters, particularly those who aggressively strain the bounds of First Amendment privilege while ignoring their responsibilities for fairness and accuracy, especially as defined by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. I have been using these terms in my programs for the past 20 years. I strongly reject any suggestion that these terms are new, or are in any way a specific reference to the recent tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, or are in any way a racial slur. Any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong.”
It’s clear that the contentious attitude we saw from St. Louis police during the Ferguson protests was no fluke; it stems from an organization that sees itself in opposition to the community and to the media. And these statements do nothing to change that evaluation.
It’s unclear from these statements whether the course has actually been canceled, but the offensive flyer has now been removed from the St. Louis County website. Here’s a screenshot, for the record.