The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office defended their decision to ask news outlets to cease tweeting at the climax of the manhunt for triple-murder suspect Christopher Dorner, saying they would do it again, in the interest of officer safety.
Christopher Lee, spokesman for the office, said he sent out the tweet after hearing that the Sheriff's Department had made the request. The Sheriff's Department does not have a Twitter account, but the DA's office does, so he wanted to help out the agency.
The tweet, which was later deleted, spurred discussion on Twitter and accusations that the agency was helping in the cover-up of police corruption. It also became the subject of a question of how Twitter and First Amendment rights fit up against an ongoing manhunt where officers had already been hurt in the line of duty.
View the story "San Bernardino responds to now-deleted tweet asking media to refrain from tweeting" on Storify] San Bernardino responds to now-deleted tweet asking media to refrain from tweeting
89.3 KPCC· Wed, Feb 13 2013 15:06:38
Lee said the request did not come from Cindy Bachman, or directly from the Sheriff's Department, which earlier had asked media helicopters to back off from the scene.
"Knowing that they didn't have a Twitter feed, I thought maybe that was something we could help out [on]," Lee said.
The sheriff has asked all members of the press to stop tweeting immediately. It is hindering officer safety. #DornerSB District Attorney
Just after the request, the accusations started.
"I've been called everything under the sun," Lee said.
@sbcountyda have the authorities not gotten enough bad press on this that they think violating 1st ammendment is the correct course?Cade Curtis
@sbcountyda u guys are weak. Media blackout? Don't zoom in on the cabin? Im rooting for #DornerVictor Saucedo
Several media accounts complied with the request.
Law enforcement officials have asked the media to stop tweeting about the Dorner case, fearing officer safety. We are complying. @sbcountydaKGO Radio
Law enforcement officials have asked the media to stop tweeting about the #Dorner case, fearing officer safety. We are complying.The Press-Enterprise
Per @SBCountyDA request we are complying and will not tweet updates on #Dorner search. Watch #live coverage on #KCAL9, #CBS2, @CBSLA.comCBS Los Angeles
CBS stations stop tweeting about Dorner | JIMROMENESKO.COMPer @ sbcountyda request we are complying and will not tweet updates on #Dorner search. Watch #live coverage on #KCAL9, #CBS2, @ cbsla.co...
Lee said this was never a media blackout, but a request. He said he had credible information that the Sheriff's Department was concerned about tweets. He said he did not know about specific tweets, but was going to look into who made the initial request and how it came about.
It was not a conspiracy, he said.
"This isnt about a conspiracy," he said. "This is about in the moment that [because of worries of] officer safety that we felt it was the most important thing. We're going to put it out there."
There was absolutely no order given, he said. It was a request, and he said he still commends those agencies, like CBS and the Press-Enterprise, who showed restraint.
Conspiracies grow over LAPD's call for #Dorner blackoutAS the LAPD surrounded the burning cabin containing former US Marine Reserve and alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner, police called for...
@sbcountyda Oh you know because you encouraged everyone else to stop Tweeting about it to cover up your corruption and to kill this manDonovan Benge
@sbcountyda Do you guys really want to be compared to the atrocious LAPD? Stop covering up for REAL criminals with badgesKevin Menso
@YourAnonNews @KCBSNews @sbcountyda You gotta be kidding me. Sometimes I think police are more afraid of twitter than... cop killers.TheProtestChaplains
The tweet was deleted sometime after 5 p.m. Lee said he made the decision to delete the tweet before he had even read about the media's concern about the request or
He said the re-tweets of the original tweet, and that of him thanking the Press Enterprise of complying with the request had caused confusion, after the request had been pulled and the story had died down.
"Since the chaos was over, we diditn want the confusion to go on," he said.
RT@sbcountyda: Thank u MT "@PEcom_news: Law enforcement officials have asked media to stop tweeting abt #Dorner case... We are complying.”Mary Guiden
Asked why he did not delete the tweet, then send out another explaining the action, Lee said at the time, he was worried the furor over the tweets was over-riding the fact that officers were out looking for Dorner and one had been killed.
"I didn't want to contribute to the zoo anymore," he said.
The incident has raised questions for news outlets whether the action was precedented and whether outlets should have complied
“It’s not unusual, particularly in a police standoff, for police to ask television in particular to be very careful in their live coverage,” Poynter’s Al Tompkins said on Poynter. “But this idea of Twitter coverage is a new wrinkle.”
Confusing coverage in breaking news may be SOP, but censoring tweets is new | Poynter.California manhunt subject Christopher Dorner may or may not be dead: Forensics investigators will look at the teeth and make chest X-ray...
Future journalism ethics lecture in the making MT @JimmyOrr Sheriff Dept to media: "Stop tweeting immediately." http://lat.ms/12K9YIG #dornerEsteban L. Hernandez
Police ask media not to tweet about manhunt for Chris Dorner | The Technology Chronicles | an SFGate.com blogAs the police surrounded a cabin where alleged murderer and ex-cop Chris Dorner was supposedly hiding, law enforcement asked those follow...
Lee said the incident was a "learning experience," but he would still make the same decision today.
"There was a lot of misinformation going on. I'll own that decision," he said. "Based on information that I had ...I would have done the same exact thing. This was about helping out."