Sean Bell’s Shooting Was A Media Circus

CBS tried to reform the cop show. Police reform advocates are not impressed with the show’s efforts. Releasing the footage of the March 4, 2009, shooting of Sean Bell (whose name was changed at…

Sean Bell's Shooting Was A Media Circus

CBS tried to reform the cop show. Police reform advocates are not impressed with the show’s efforts.

Releasing the footage of the March 4, 2009, shooting of Sean Bell (whose name was changed at the last minute for the show) on April 2, 2013, set the scene for a week-long media circus that was broadcast live on every broadcast network, on hundreds of radio and cable stations, and in over 40 newspapers across the country.

The most significant feature was the footage of Detective William “Mike” Shellenberger opening Bell’s door and pointing his gun at Bell before Bell was shot. Shellenberger told police he wanted to “find out who had done this.”

Not long after the recording of this segment, on April 4, 2013, an independent arbiter, appointed by the New York Police Department (NYPD) Chief of Department William Bratton, released his findings of the shooting. The arbiter concluded that the cop had committed a crime, but that he was justified in shooting Bell.

The Independent Officer Review Board’s findings were published in the press and in the New York Times on April 4, 2013, with a front-page story and a follow-up story on April 11, 2013. The front-page story was written by Michael Barbaro. Bratton issued a follow-up statement, and Barbaro wrote a follow-up article, all in the New York Times.

A day later, Fox News’ Sean Hannity aired his own independent investigation of the shooting, also in the press, with the subtitle: “FOX News Investigative Unit’s Report On The Police Shooting Of Sean Bell.” Hannity’s report was released on May 2, 2013. The Times ran the headline: “Fox Report Suggests Errors In Investigation.”

The Independent Officer Review Board’s findings were reviewed and criticized by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which released a statement on May 5, 2013, as well as by independent lawyer and professor David Rocah.

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