As first responders, few calls for service can scar us for life. Some of us can become numb due to the amount of times we have viewed blood or mangled cars. To civilians, like our families, the critical incidents officers see or read can be horrifying. After an officer-involved shooting or a line of duty death, officers and their families can never been prepared for the inevitable details. The finite records of these events, accurate or not, are played out in court, media and within public safety agencies for everyone – including our loved ones.
Unfortunately, our trooper, Officer Seth Meeske, knows this all too well. Officer Meeske acted accordingly after being attacked by a brazen criminal last September 21, 2013. His composure after being shot helped locate the individual and he was fortunate to go home to his family. His will to continue to serve as an officer is inspiring to all of us. For almost a year, the details of this incident have been discussed in the media. However, one article that came out by the Payson Roundup was disturbing to our members and police survivors. The article was entitled “A Night of Deadly Choices” on June 16, 2014, where the reporter told Officer Meeske that she wanted to do a piece from the suspect’s point of view. It showed pictures of Meeske’s blood on the side of his patrol car and the suspect’s body in handcuffs, as if the criminal was apprehended and was brought to justice. AHPA asked the editor as to why they would publish those particular photos from the critical incident, and he said it was done with the best of intentions to help show Meeske’s heroism.
Needless to say, this article was not just disturbing to us, but to Officer Meeske and his family. The question we have heard most from members was, “Did the Payson Roundup think about his children reading or viewing the article?” The AHPA board could not agree more. It is important to AHPA that we continue to work with media to be our partners in reporting line of duty deaths and critical incidents appropriately. The reproductions of viewing pictures and reading details can impact our law enforcement community greatly. Below is an editorial AHPA and the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Arizona Chapter wrote to the Payson Roundup we wanted to share with you. This position is applicable to ALL our members. AHPA will always stand by you and your family, and hold accountable media outlets that report details that are socially unacceptable.
We are pleased to announce that the photos have since been changed in the article.
The AHPA Executive Board
Link to C.O.P.S. Editorial: http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2014/jun/24/story-continues-trauma-officers-and-their-families/
AHPA Editorial to Payson Roundup:
To the members of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA), Department of Public Safety (DPS) Officer Seth Meeske is a warrior. On September 21, 2013, Meeske and other officers encountered a criminal that used a gun and vehicle as a weapon against Arizonans; willing to kill anyone in his path. The traumatic incident concluded with the criminal killing himself. Unfortunately, the incident left Officer Meeske shot three times, but in true warrior spirit, he remained calm and was able to provide vital suspect information to another DPS officer in the area.
Police want to protect our loved ones from experiencing firsthand the evils that target our uniform every day. When officers say goodbye to their families before a shift begins, there is worry we will not come home. For an average twenty year career in this honorable profession, there are plenty of goodbyes and worrying. Officer Meeske was very fortunate to go home and see his family again.
The article entitled “A Night of Deadly Choices” in the Payson Roundup on June 13, 2014 can be considered disturbing to the law enforcement community and the citizens we serve. We encourage our media to consider the sensitivity of an officer and their family when publishing photos of a critical incidents and information about a suspect. Meeske’s family, including his children, will forever have to view graphic pictures and read about the monstrous attack on their father. The Meeske’s have to live with that traumatic night for the rest of their lives – physically, spiritually and emotionally.
The AHPA hopes that the Payson Roundup will consider better practices when running photos and reporting critical incidents. Peace officers, including Officer Meeske, deserve the greatest dignity after an attempt on their lives.
Our organization will continue to be there for Officer Meeske and his continuing road to recovery from this senseless attack. Despite the heinous attack on Meeske’s life, our hero still has the call to protect and serve you.