Media Censorship and Law Enforcement Suppression
By Joseph R. Uliano, Ed.D. with Chief Thomas Russo (Ret.)
As managing editor of Blue Magazine, I am constantly vigilant of law enforcement censorship among media outlets that refuse to afford active and retired law enforcement professionals their First Amendment right to go public with their expertise. I attribute this deliberate act to the old saying, “The Truth Hurts,” because in many cases hearing our side of the story; the truth, from the boots on the ground would discredit and devalue the fabrication that appeals to the unenlightened spectators who watch from afar, passing unqualified judgment on the qualified.
While in my vigilant state, I was fortunate to come across a post on Facebook from Chief Thomas Russo (Ret.) from the Montclair Police Department, located in New Jersey. I paid particular attention to this post because Chief Russo has been a law enforcement professional who I have admired since the early 1990s when I was exploring a career in law enforcement. While reading the chief’s post, I first felt disheartened thinking how could a media outlet not want to hear from a seasoned, respected and proven law enforcement professional? But then I quickly reminded myself that our factually based opinions hurt their ill-intended agenda to only placate a one-sided debate.
Here is what Chief Russo had to say:
“A local newspaper has rejected five letters I submitted to their editor, all pro law enforcement. Earlier this year, I submitted a series of letters voicing my opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana. All my letters provided facts, professional opinions, and cases that I had investigated during my tenure involving marijuana, which lead to fatalities. The local paper printed the first three but rejected the last two not giving me an explanation leading me to the conclusion I was striking a nerve and they did not want to be associated with my opposition on legalizing recreational marijuana. In New Jersey, our politicians are having a hard time passing this bill and making it law. I'd like to think my voice helped in the recent failed vote.
However, at the end of July, I submitted a letter to the editor entitled "PURE POLITICAL INSANITY," which dealt with Eric Garner and N.Y.P.D. Officer Pantaleo’s infamous “choke hold” case that has lingered through the judicial process for the past several years. I gave my professional opinion citing the autopsy report and the fact that Officer Pantaleo was not charged with any federal civil rights violations nor was he indicted by a grand jury. I received a phone call from the local newspaper indicating they would not print my letter as my facts were wrong and that I had accused New York City Mayor DeBlasio as sending a strong message to the members of the N.Y.P.D. that "COPS WERE EXPENDABLE!"
In describing the medical examiner’s report, I indicated the autopsy attributed the cause of death as compression to the neck and chest with contributing factors as bronchial asthma, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Let’s not forget that Eric Garner was a large man at 6'2" and weighing 400 pounds. I was told if I eliminate these two paragraphs, they would print my letter. I refused and rescinded my letter. I then followed up with a second letter entitled "Local Newspaper Refuses to Print the Truth.” In this letter, I briefly described my vita, including my credentials: Graduate F.B.I Academy, Quantico Virginia, Graduate U.S. Secret Service Academy, Washington D.C., selected as one of three chiefs from New Jersey by then-President Clinton to assist him and the U.S. Justice Department in establishing his crime bill and as a result was invited to the Rose Garden of the White House to witness the signing of this bill. I also indicted that I served two terms as President of the Essex County Chiefs Association, and that upon retiring, I was a partner in Russo DeLitta Law Enforcement Consultants, where we prepared what is known as “expert opinion reports” working with the New Jersey Joint Insurance Fund (JIF), who represented municipalities, police departments, and police officers who were being sued for alleged wrong doings while performing their duties . As a result, I was declared an “EXPERT WITNESS” to testify in court proceedings.
The local newspaper once again refused to print my pro law enforcement background and expert opinion. I realize that any media outlet reserves the right to not publish letters for any reason. However, one must wonder if one's letter is not within the beliefs of their agenda they will be rejected, so as not to alienate some of their subscribers . This time in rejecting my letter they did not even give me the courtesy of a phone call. Being in law enforcement for years that I have been, I know firsthand what one reads in the newspaper does not always cover the totality of circumstance. I have no ill malice toward this local newspaper, but wish they were more respectful of the men and women who have chosen law enforcement as a career, as they are willing to sacrifice more than most. By not printing my letters, I have become more motivated to get my voice out there more often, because I refuse to be silenced on matters that affect my beloved profession.”
In closing, I respectfully thank Chief Russo for sharing his post with our readers and hope that his heartfelt honesty will elicit a greater voice from our active and retired law enforcement officers who are hesitant in voicing their opinion. Make no mistake about it, our voices need to be heard.