We’ve received a letter from the Fraternal Order of Police requesting that we effectively “cease and desist” the practice of journalism.
For the record, our answer is “no.”
Here’s the full text of the letter, delivered Tuesday to Chicago Sun-Times investigative reporters Tim Novak and Robert Herguth — and also posted on the Chicago FOP’s website:
It has come to the attention of the FOP that you have gone to the homes of department members in the course of pursuing stories for your publication.
This letter is to notify you to cease and desist this practice. The proper and traditional means of contacting department members is through the Chicago Police Department. Police officers have always had an expectation of privacy in their homes. Their private residence should remain free from media access. Your use of this tactic is unprofessional and unethical, and is further illuminative of your publications’ general bias against the police.
I am informing my members not to speak to either of you, or any Sun-Times reporter, if they come onto their private residence. I am further advising them to call the police and sign complaints for trespassing if you refuse to leave.
Second Vice President, FOP
Here’s our response:
The tenets of journalism, especially investigative journalism, call for reporters to interview the people they’re writing about to get their sides of the story.
Sometimes, it’s an email. Sometimes, it’s a phone call. Sometimes, it’s a trip to their home or office. Many times, it’s all of the above.
Make no mistake, Mr. Preib, this publication calls it like it sees it when it comes to the Chicago Police Department.
That means stories and editorials about hero officers such as Bernard Domagala, who was laid to rest this week, and stories like the one Novak and Herguth did in Sunday’s editions that noted the soft penalties for some officers caught abusing alcohol or drugs.
What you see as “a tactic,” we see as making every effort to reach out to police officers so their voices can be heard without being screened by the union or the police department. It may be inconvenient, but we are not in the habit of relying upon the police department’s communications office to tell us everything we need to know.
If officers speak to our reporters — and, yes, they sometimes do — we hear them out. If they don’t, the standard practice is to hand them a business card and leave.
Chicago needs a great police force. Chicago also needs great journalism. So, Mr. Preib, you do your job and we’ll do ours.
You keep the city safe. We’ll keep the city informed.
Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org.