SEATTLE – The Seattle Police Department has started a new form of communication with the media – video recorded statements posted on the department's website. They call it an enhanced format, but critics say it may be a way for police to avoid answering hard questions from reporters.
When a story broke Monday on possible policy violations within the department's DUI squad, police declined to answer questions about the internal investigation. Instead, the department issued a prepared video statement from Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer.
"If you have an image problem and you want to fix it, you hold a news conference and let it all hang out," 97.3 KIRO-FM talk show host Dave Ross said. "If there's a question you can't answer, you say 'I can't answer that at this time.'"
"The video was a statement, not a dialog," police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said. "We are not contractually allowed to answer questions about administrative investigations."
Whitcomb said the new video statements are designed to help radio and television stations that had asked for more than written statements.
"If they're reaching out to the people, the people should be able to reach back to the police. That's not happening in this situation," said Professor Hanson Hosein, University of Washington digital media director, He said Seattle Police could use interactive communications to improve their public relations problems.
Police say they will continue to issue video statements, but will answer reporter questions when they can.