On day cop killed, union calls media outlet ‘liberal’ and ‘trash’
Hours after a Jersey City police officer was slain by suspects linked to a massacre at a Jewish market, the state's largest police union attacked a media outlet as "liberal media" and "trash" for its news coverage.
In the ninth paragraph of a Jersey Journal news story about Detective Joseph Seals, the reporter noted that he "was no stranger to dangerous and violence situations" and he "used force 20 times between 2012 and 2016, the second-highest number of any Jersey City officer during that period, according to New Jersey Advance Media’s use of force database."
The headline of the story was "Detective Joseph Seals identified as officer killed in Jersey City cemetery."
The New Jersey Police Benevolent Association took offense to the mention of Seals' use-of-force history, interpreting it as an attack on his character.
"A hero officer is killed today, some NJ media outlet writes about his use of force history. The liberal media is trash and everyone should email firstname.lastname@example.org -tell them they crossed the line with their irresponsible, click bait and truly classless 'reporting,'" the union said on its Twitter account.
Jersey Journal editor and publisher David Blomquist defended the story.
"I urge concerned readers to take a close look at today’s coverage," Blomquist said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5. "The Journal reported that Detective Seals routinely encountered gravely dangerous situations in his work that involved deadly force. Nothing in today’s reporting disparages his conduct or the conduct of the Jersey City Police Department."
The Jersey Journal is owned by the same company as The Star-Ledger. Both newspapers publish their work on NJ.com.
Seals was killed in a cemetery during an encounter with ex-con David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, according to Jersey City police. Both were killed Tuesday afternoon in a shootout with police at the JC Kosher Supermarket, where three people were shot dead.
In a response to the union's tweet, NBC 4 New York reporter Brian Thompson said: "Please don’t say liberal media. Don’t know circumstances here, but it’s not a matter of liberal vs. Conservative media. All I know is by all accounts this cop was a hero today. Period."
NJ PBA responded that "Brian is right" and that "our outrage is at the lack of common decency in reporting in this case. It doesn't matter if its liberal or conservative."
Former Star Ledger reporter Dan Goldberg, now working for Politco, defended use of the statistic in his response to the tweet.
"I couldn’t believe it either. How could they, I thought. So I read the article. They point out that he was a hero who put himself in harm’s way to protect others. See for yourself," he wrote.
The PBA did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
NJ.com compiled an extensive database of use-of-force reports filed by every police officer in the state over a several-year period. The police union had criticized the project because they believed the statistics left out the context of the violent encounters. The project won several journalism industry awards.
Use of force was defined in the report as compliance, takedown, use of hands/fist, leg strike, baton strikes, use of pepper spray and firing a weapon based on reports gathered from law enforcement agencies around the state.
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