The dangers of reporting misinformation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — When tragedies happen, like the one in California Wednesday and the Planned Parenthood shooting here, there can be a lot of misinformation given out by the media.

Law enforcement said it can be extremely damaging to them during these situations. It could lead to officers getting hurt, evening jeopardizing lives and any potential court cases if the suspect is caught alive. They said there were a couple examples of unconfirmed misinformation that was given out during the Planned Parenthood shooting.

“We were a couple hours into the incident and the suspect hadn’t surrendered. It was still an active shooting scenario and we’ve got people tweeting out the suspect’s name. That’s very damaging when we’ve got law enforcement and we’ve got officers still responding, still being shot at and they’re identifying an individual who may or not indeed be the suspect,” said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby.

They also mentioned reporting police scanner traffic can put people in danger.

“It also gives up tactical advantage of where our officers are, in relation to where the suspect is, which compromises their safety,” Kirby said.

They have good reasons for controlling the flow of information.

“When we are not giving information right away it’s because it’s imperative to that investigation. We’re not trying to withhold anything from the public,” Kirby said.

They said this goes beyond events like active shooters. For example, on a normal day, tweeting out information about SWAT being in a specific area can be bad.

“We have information that we would like to keep private that only the suspect would know and if that information is being put out there that suspect now knows where we’re headed and what we know and we do want to keep that confidential, so we can get that suspect off the streets,” Kirby said.

They said they’ll always tell us everything they can, when they can.

“And when we do we are doing so because we know that that will not undermine our investigative process, possibly a successful prosecution of the case,” Kirby said.

Law enforcement also said they understand we live in an age where everyone wants information instantaneously, but that can be dangerous when the information is wrong, which is why they take their time releasing it.

Now, it’s our job in the media to only report what we can confirm.

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