A woman in Anaheim was recently arrested by a cameraman for KNBC-TV on suspicion of prostitution. At least that's who his identification said he was before he finally flashed his police badge and made the arrest. The woman was upset. So was KNBC-TV. And with good cause.
That a police detective would use counterfeit credentials seized years ago in a forgery case to pass himself off as a member of the press to persuade a prostitution suspect that he was something other than a police officer is of great concern to the news agency he falsely represented. But it also concerns the press in general--and the public. All were victims of the subterfuge.
Another aspect of the incident is even more disturbing. The police, despite the television station's protest, did not see anything wrong with using the phony press identification. They could not be more wrong.
Journalists do not go around passing themselves off as police officers. Police should not pose as reporters.
What Anaheim police officials fail to realize is that the practice is not harmless. In response to KNBC's outrage, one police supervisor responded by saying that using the false identification was offensive only to the prostitute. It goes well beyond that. Using false identification from an existing company is bad policy. But using phony press identification is even worse because it compromises all news organizations and can put their representatives under suspicion.