Jan and I have been following this story for some time. It is easy to play the ‘Press Card’ that the police will not talk to us. It is even easier to ‘buy in’ for a couple of weeks and then move on to a new case. Unfortunately that is not who we are. Jan and I pick a story, a case, and we stick at it. Most police organizations are not used to this approach. There will be a couple of phone calls from the press, and then they move on.
Because the press can be a ‘real pain in the ass’ most organizations have a position created for a PIO, or in regular speak, a Public Information Officer. His mission in life is to be the buffer zone between the detectives on a case and the press dogging them!
The PIO is a guy that has a very hard mission. He has to balance information between the need for secrecy. I doubt that many people would argue that fact. To share a single fact with the press could indeed kill a case. The great PIO is the guy that can walk the tightrope. On occasions you get meat, on occasions you get salad, sometimes you only get Ketchup. But, you always get something. It is a rare situation when the PIO for even the biggest case does not call back within the hour.
The one thing I have figured out when dealing with the St Tammany folks is, calling them is a waste of time. It took something close to act of congress to get the PIO the first time! It took repeated calls to finally get â€œThis is an active caseâ€.
This time it was a little quicker, my message was ‘call me, or else I am going live with a story’. It still took two days, I still got the run around!
Maybe I got more information than the mother of Zachary Pittman has achieved, but that makes me sad. When pushed to the wall, our favorite PIO admitted that detective Corey Crowe was no longer on the case. Of course this was not information that was forthcoming. It took a voice mail that explained my frustration, and my plan on launching a story, guess what? Suddenly I get a call back.
It is time that St Tammany realize that PIO does not stand for Police Interference Officer.
It took something akin to performing a ‘root canal’ but I did manage to drag out the information that the new lead detective is Detective Gottardi. Lets hope that he spends more time talking to the family than his predecessor did!