ENOCH QUALLS AGAINST RADIO NEW ZEALAND
Case Number: 3265
Council Meeting: MAY 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
Radio New Zealand published an article on March 23, 2022, headlined Police who killed were given evidence in advance.
The lengthy investigative report was based on an analysis of police files and other documents relating in particular to four of the 39 fatal police shootings since 1990. It reported that none of the officers involved in those shootings had been charged and asked: “Can it be true that in all 39 cases the police have never been at fault? Or do the police go easy on their own.”
It reported briefly on what happened in each of the four shootings before focusing on the conduct of the subsequent inquiries conducted by fellow police officers. It noted that the officers were not treated as suspects and contrary to usual investigation procedures they were shown video footage and information from other witnesses before being interviewed.
Enoch Qualls complained that the article was unfair and unbalanced as it did not provide any detail of the threat, risk and necessity for police to shoot in each of these cases.
He said it omitted relevant information on the shootings, repeatedly failed to capture the risk posed to police and the public in each of the cases, or detail the efforts made by police to gain compliance before the shots were fired.
Responding to the complaint Radio New Zealand’s Complaints Coordinator George Bignall said the article opened with the following:
“When police shoot and kill, they’re investigated by fellow officers. Guyon Espiner reveals that shooters have been shown evidence in advance of being interviewed and that police refuse to treat them as suspects.”
Mr Bignall said the article was clearly flagged as examining this aspect of the controversial topic of fatal police shootings. It was not a detailed investigation of the events leading up to each of the shootings.
The Media Council notes that this article does not purport to be an account of the four incidents.
What happened in each of the shootings was outlined briefly. No specific inaccuracies have been established. More detail about the victims and the circumstances of the shooting might have been relevant if the article was looking at whether the shootings were justified. But that was not what the article was about. It was about how Police conduct inquiries after fatal shootings. This is a matter of public interest.
The requirements for fairness and balance were addressed with the inclusion of comment giving a Police perspective on how they conduct such inquiries.
For these reasons the Council considers there were insufficient grounds to proceed.