Youtube film featuring well-regarded defense attorney raises troubling questions

COLUMBIA, 12/10/11  (Beat Byte) --
  On its way to declaring the Boone County Sheriff's Department (BCSD) "more professional" than the Columbia Police Department (CPD), a new Youtube video featuring Columbia criminal defense attorney Jennifer Bukowsky connects the police to a notorious Columbia lynch mob, but also raises questions about the video's producer, who has had legal problems in both civil and criminal courts.
The video represents a nationwide if not international phenomenon that has come to Columbia in just the past few years:  the steady movement of investigative reporting -- in fits and starts -- away from professional newsrooms and into the hands of untrained journalists, many of them young.

"The Boone County Sheriff's Department people, in 1923, are trying to stop the lynching," Bukowsky explains on the video, after a detailed and dramatic retelling of the James T. Scott murder.  "And the Columbia Police Department is standing by letting it happen.  So these are problems going way, way back." 
A white mob broke Scott  -- a black man -- out of a Boone County jail cell, marched him to a bridge near Providence and Stewart Roads, and hung him, over unproven and untried allegations that he had sexually assaulted the 14-year-old daughter of an MU professor.  
Racially-charged allegations, from profiling to excessive force, have dogged CPD for decades, and led to the creation of the Columbia Citizens Police Review Board.   Nonetheless, the lynching connection "is a stretch that is likely offensive to many members of the Columbia Police Department," said CPD spokesperson Sergeant Jill (Wieneke) Schlude.   
The lack-of-professionalism comparison is also "a pretty serious claim to level with anecdotal evidence," she told the Heart Beat.  "Are there things being done in the video I would like to see done differently?  Sure.  But I cannot say with 100% assurance why some officers took the action they did or if any of it was inappropriate." 
The video begins by comparing filmed encounters with on-duty sheriff deputies and police officers, as its producer Matthew Stephen Akins (above), founder of law enforcement watchdog group Citizens For Justice (CFJ), introduces himself and his film crew. 
Sheriff's deputies are noticeably more polite and receptive.  Police officers, on the other hand, seem agitated, even abrasive.  A patrol car reportedly driven by CPD officer Addison Watson speeds off as Akins and crew approach, politely asking, "Is everything all right sir?  Everything all right?"  Other police officers shine their spotlights directly at the crew, Akins says to prevent filming. 
After watching Akins' video, "You can't help but notice the Boone County deputies, they come up to you and introduce themselves," Bukowsky tells him.  "They're not trying to avoid being filmed; they're being respectful and professional...It's just a difference in attitude toward you.  It seems like, with the Boone County Sheriffs, that it's their duty to serve and protect, and if a citizen asks them something, they respond professionally." 
Toward the police, however, Bukowsky directs pointed criticism.  "The Columbia Police Department seems to have an attitude that it's okay to do things to you like leave when you're trying to ask if there's a problem, or shine their lights to prevent you from we know where you are, we're following you, we're watching you....It seems to be almost a pattern of intimidation." 
At that point, Bukowsky introduces the Scott lynching, asking Akins if he has heard of the case.  Local KOPN radio talk show host Tyree Byndom then narrates the tragic retelling. 

Despite its powerful overtones, the critique isn't accurate, said CPD's Schlude, who worries that both Bukowsky and Akins are adding a slanted spin. 
"I think Akins would be more credible if he edited less and maybe posted every video, regardless of whether it supported any theory about the police," she told the Heart Beat.  Akins has a sizable Youtube film library about local law enforcement. 
"Interviewing defense attorneys who clearly have something to gain -- clients -- by being anti-police doesn't help matters, either," Wieneke-Schlude (above) added.  "I'm not saying Mrs. Bukowsky is a bad person, but in my opinion she doesn't add to the credibility of CFJ from an officer's perspective."   
Part 2:  Apples and Oranges? 


  1. I would like to clarify some things...

    I have read the entire article through the newsletter that was sent out, but I will post my individual critics to the sections as they are released.

    "The lack-of-professionalism comparison is also 'a pretty serious claim to level with anecdotal evidence,'"-Jill Schlude

    Interesting Jill would say this, being that she makes several statements("Despite its powerful overtones, the critique isn't accurate, said CPD's Schlude, who worries that both Bukowsky and Akins are adding a slanted spin.") and back them up with NO evidence, anecdotal or other.

    I would like Sgt. Schlude to clarify these inaccuracies and provide the source for such.

    "I think Akins would be more credible if he edited less and maybe posted every video, regardless of whether it supported any theory about the police,"

    Funny how this has never come up in our 6-7 months of communication. Also, would Jill care to elaborate on how our editing footage makes us less credible than ANY other journalism video put out that has been edited. Sgt. Schlude, you have never criticized KOMU, KMIZ, KRCG, or any other video-based media outlet for their editing.

    Please point out any and all occasions where we have edited footage in a way that takes away from our credibility.

    This is a pretty serious claim to level with no evidence.

    And finally...

    "Interviewing defense attorneys who clearly have something to gain -- clients -- by being anti-police doesn't help matters, either," Wieneke-Schlude (above) added. "I'm not saying Mrs. Bukowsky is a bad person, but in my opinion she doesn't add to the credibility of CFJ from an officer's perspective."-Jill Schlude

    First of all, at 24:03 in the video, Jennifer Bukowski specifically say's "I'm not anti-law enforcement."

    Secondly, Sgt. Schlude, you know as well as I do that I have sent multiple interview requests to you which you have denied, either outright or indirectly.

    I have also attempted to get interviews with officers in the street, and am blown off pretty much every time.

    If you guys have a problem with CFJ and therefore don't want to cooperate with us fine, but don't turn around and attack our credibility, because we're not looking at things from the police's perspective. We've been trying to do that for months now and have been receiving very little cooperation in exchange.

    Why do you think I said it was like a breath of fresh air when Deputy Phillip Smith walked up, introduced himself to us, and shook my hand?

  2. Of course, no one presently with the CPD was there when the lynching occurred, but Jennifer's point is that there is a long history of racial bias in the CPD. Local black folks grew up hearing about this lynching. All the CPD did was direct traffic! Their office was right where it is now, across the street from the Courthouse. The mob gathered on the Courthouse lawn and went to the dungeon which was our jail, then attached to the north side of the Courthouse. The CPD made no effort to stop it. If they don't know their own history, they need to learn it.


    I think the questions about credibility here are interesting. I would argue that "trained" journalists and "professional newsrooms" are biased in many ways, and judgements about one's ability to provide credible information to the public should not be made based solely on a person's ability to gain positive recognition for a job well done from formal institutions, or in other words institutional(ized) accreditation.

    I also think the phrase "from an officer's perspective" used by Sergeant Jill Wieneke-Schlude is a very important one to consider here. Whatever the ideological or historical differences in perspective between the Columbia Police Department and criminal defense attorneys, everyone has to at least agree that the evidence presented in the video (not to mention additional evidence such as a general perception of a need for a Citizen's Police Review Board among other things) indicates that there is reason for concern about the behavior of police officers working in Columbia, MO.

    In my opinion, some of the biases that groups or individuals may have in reference to others are the cause of much of the criticism and controversy here. In some instances the biases are relevant to the discussion of citizen-police interaction. In other instances maybe they are not; and, in these instances claims about credibility should be disregarded. For example, whatever difficulties exist between the Police Department and criminal defense attorneys, members of the Police Department need to understand, as it appears Wieneke-Schlude does, that these do not present a legitimate challenge to the credibility of Citizens For Justice from the perspective of the general public. Likewise, the claims about Matthew Akin's personal legal history can hardly be used to question the credibility of his journalistic work.


    It's certainly not only a problem here. The piece published this weekend from the NYT is fascinating and shameful.

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