Following the horrific shooting of Sgt. Mark Chesnut on June 25th, 2009 after a traffic stop turned into attempted murder of a police officer, News Channel 5 in Nashville, TN did a demonstration on television showing viewers where an officer wearing a vest can still be shot and critically or lethally injured.
Upon one of our members, who is located in Nashville, TN, saw the segment, she immediately expressed her concern to the station and was shocked at the response she received. Below are the correspondence a few of our members have had from News Channel 5 in Nashville.
"I was shocked and appalled to learn that your news channel had run a report that included information illustrating exactly where police officers were still vulnerable when wearing a bullet proof vest. How did this reporter (Amanda Hara) think she was doing a good thing by airing this information? My husband puts his life on the line every day, the last thing he needs is a reporter giving a demonstration of how better to kill him. Did no one stop to think about this? I can not believe that a news organization like yours - one that I respect and prefer over other Nashville stations - would run such an ignorant news piece. I will now be unsubscribing from the daily e-mail alerts I get from your station, and I will no longer be watching Channel 5 news. I will also be encouraging everyone I know in Nashville to do the same. This report was completely irresponsible and shows an unforgivable lack of judgment. Your station, and Ms. Hara, owes an apology to every Nashville officer they put in further danger with this report. I hope to see you issue such an apology, and I truly hope that not one officer loses his life as a result of this report." -T
I would like to express my outrage to the irresponsible news report your station aired showing how to mortally wound someone wearing a ballistic vest. What in the world did you hope to accomplish by doing that?!?! Are you going to do a report on bomb making for terrorists next? THAT is how disgusting and low life the segment you aired is to me. As a police wife, my biggest fear in life is sending my husband to work and having him return home to me in a casket. My 3 children and I would appreciate you to think twice about your lack of judgement and poor taste so their father and my husband can come home safely to us every day, God willing. Shame on you all.
Proud Police Wife"
"When I saw the piece that your station aired that included ways to wound someone wearing a bullet-proof vest, I felt literally sick to my stomach. How is this news-worthy? Criminals can come up with enough ways to endanger our police officers without help from the media. My husband is a police officer, and I watch him put on his bullet-proof vest every day and pray that it keeps him safe. There are many weapons that it will not protect him against; why would your station tell people MORE ways to kill someone wearing one of these vests? An officer on my husband's shift was shot earlier this year--the two bullets that hit him happened to miss his vest. He saved a woman's life in the process; he is still recovering five months later, and is very blessed to be alive. This happens to officers all over the country every day--they are there to keep us safe, and your station has put them in even more danger. This piece was done in very poor taste and I will be telling every one that I can to express their distaste with your station.
Please give more thought to the lives you will affect with your "news" stories. -E"
News Channel 5 in Nashville, TN very obviously does NOT take our concerns seriously. All of our members who have thus far emailed the station received one or both of these two responses:
"Thank you for taking the time to express your concern.
Let me first say, I could not imagine the amount of stress and/or fear an officer's spouse endures on a daily basis, not to mention the officer.
I personally have the upmost respect for all of those men and women - across the nation - who put their lives on the line every day for citizens like myself.
The story you are talking about was an update from Vanderbilt Medical Center on Sgt. Mark Chesnut's condition. In wrapping up her live report, News Channel 5's Amanda Harra, showed a ballistics vest and talked about the fact that they do not cover every part of someone's body - which is why Sgt. Chesnut was injured. This report was not intended to give people ideas on how to injure an officer nor was it intended to show any disrespect to the thousands of officers we have serving our community.
Chief Ronal Serpas talked to members of the media - the day of the shooting - and told us why and how Sgt. Chesnut was injured. He discussed the ballistics vest at length and instead of showing Chief Serpas talking about it - our reporter Amanda showed one of the vests and discussed how something like this could have happened.
We did have a few e-mails from concerned viewers about Sgt. Chesnut asking if he was even wearing a bullet proof vest.
It is unfortunate you feel as though our reporting was irresponsible and appalling. We were sharing information the chief himself pointed out during the news conference held at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
I think I can speak for all of us here at Channel 5 when I say - we do care about our police force and we do not want to lose any more officers. We try to be sensitive when reporting information regarding police-involved shootings and we will continue to pray for Sgt. Mark Chesnut and his family.
Thank you again for your e-mail.
News Channel 5"
"Thank you for taking the time to write. I assure you we would never do anything to intentionally endanger the lives of our officers. We have a great relationship with Metro police & in fact, they were aware of the story we were doing. Our goal was to try and explain to viewers why Sgt. Chesnut was so seriously injured even though he was wearing the proper protective equipment. The current equipment simply isn%u2019t good enough for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us. I will take a look at your video %u2013 thanks for bringing it to my attention. Again, I apologize if you were upset by the story %u2013 that was certainly not our intention.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts %u2013 I always appreciate getting feedback from viewers.
Assistant News Director
WTVF-TV - NewsChannel 5
474 James Robertson Pkwy
Nashville, TN 37219
Convinced that our concerns were not being taken seriously, our President, Angel, emailed the station as well:
"My name is Angel, and I am the President of PoliceWives.Org, a national support group for the families of Law Enforcement Officers. I am writing today in regards to your station's responses to my members concerns.
Since your story ran I have received more emails from members then I can possibly respond to. And when my members posted your station's responses to their concerns, those emails doubled.
Although I understand that the information given was in regards to how the vest does not completely protect, your stance is still beyond insensitive. It does not matter where you received your information, anyone who loves an officer lives with the knowledge they are not totally protected, these are the things that keep us up at night. But by giving viewers a how to on the best ways to kill an officer, well you should be ashamed of yourself.
If a bomb went off, you might report basics on how it was accomplished. But would you post instructions on how to build a bomb, or where to place it to maximize damage? No, you would not. If you truly supported Law Enforcement, instead of placing blame and saying "well they told us how this could happen," you would have reported on how these officers need better protection, better vests, more funding; you would not have given the public a how to on how to kill an officer.
Instead of admitting you made a poor choice, you chose to place blame. Did Chief Serpas know you were going to use the information you were given in the way that you did? If so, your viewers would love to see you follow up with him on his opinions of the outrage of your viewers, local and nationwide.
One thing I have learned in life is that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. It%u2019s how we handle those mistakes that show our integrity. Your responses have definitely shown yours. While you may shrug this off now and make excuses, I can guarantee if/when the day comes an officer is injured or killed due to your carelessness you will sing a different tune. Especially when the family of said officer sues your station for your negligence and has the backing and power of several national organizations behind them helping them do so. We hope this day never comes, we pray it never comes. But if it does, you can bet we will be there."
And the response she received further indicated that the channel does not believe they did anything wrong, nor will they apologize or say they won't do such a thing again!
"It is unfortunate you feel this way. I believe you misinterpreted our report. I am not making excuses, I am not placing blame on Chief Serpas. I was mentioning where we got our information.
We did not broadcast a segment on "How to kill a police officer".
Again, it was an update on Sgt. Mark Chesnut's condition - with an explanation of how something like this could happen.
News Channel 5"
Please join us in telling this news station that it is UNACCEPTABLE to air a demonstration on how to best kill a cop who is wearing a ballistics vest! Below is the contact info for the station. Please take a minute to send them an email making them aware that these stories are appalling and we will not allow this to happen, in addition to signing this petition.
THANK YOU, from Police Wives Inc!
News: Sandy Boonstra, News Director-- firstname.lastname@example.org
Entertainment Programing: Mark Binda, Programming Director-- email@example.com
NewsChannel 5 : Brian Bates, Executive Director-- firstname.lastname@example.org
NewsChannel5.com: Jared Turner, Internet Manager Editor-- email@example.com
Engineering: Gibson Prichard-- firstname.lastname@example.org
Sales: Natalie Ryman, Sales Manager-- email@example.com
Debbie Turner, General Manager-- firstname.lastname@example.org