Accompanying a police patrol
We sometimes accompany police officers on patrol or in a police operation. Our goal is to inform the public about the way those responsible for law enforcement ensure public safety and administer justice. Law enforcement officers are called upon to intervene in situations where physical violence may occur. They are also required to collect evidence that could incriminate or exonerate an accused at trial.
Our presence on a police patrol carries a risk of confusion between the active roles played by law officers in their work and our role as observers. In our job we gather facts to report to the public, not evidence for the administration of justice.
There are things officers of the law can do in the course of their duties that we cannot. We would run the risk of trespassing on private property or invading privacy. We do not have the same entry privileges as police officers. Unless we have been directly invited or authorized by the owner or occupant of the premises, we will act with respect for their privacy.
Before agreeing to accompany law officers in their work, we ensure that the limits to our involvement are clearly stated. We take care to assess all the risks arising from our presence in the company of law officers and will refer the final decision to take part in this type of operation to the Managing Editor, in consultation with the Law Department.
We clearly advise the audience of the limits imposed on us as observers of the facts and take care to respect the privacy and the presumption of innocence of anyone featured in this kind of police reporting.
Respect for the suffering of victims and their family
In approaching victims or witnesses of tragic events, we carefully weigh both the public interest of full reporting and the need to show compassion and restraint. In such situations we are considerate and we use judgment.
We take care not to exert undue pressure on a distressed person for an interview.
When images or audio clips could upset part of the audience, we choose them carefully. We limit their use to what is necessary for an understanding of the subject and we provide an audience advisory before use on any of our platforms.
Depiction of violence
We reflect the reality of the situations we report. We also respect the sensibilities of our viewers, listeners and readers.
Scenes of violence and suffering are part of our coverage of wars, disaster, crime and conflict.
We respect our audience by assessing the impact of our images according to time of day and the context of the program where such material is appearing.
Programmers and journalists must be familiar with CRTC regulations about the depiction of violence and adhere to those guidelines.
If it is necessary to use graphic images, we will put a warning ahead of their use.
We are sensitive in our handling of suicides, suicide attempts and desperate acts. In particular, we avoid describing the act in detail or illustrating the method, and we consider the risk of glorifying this behaviour or of influencing vulnerable people.
We generally refrain from publishing threats to individuals except where there is significant public interest.
We generally refrain from publishing threats to institutions unless the threats or the security measures that ensue involve consequences for the public.
A threat of violence received by CBC, such as a bomb threat, must be immediately reported to the police.
Identification of accident and crime victims
If police have not released the identity of a person who has died as a result of an accident or a crime, we refrain from publishing this information until we have confirmed it and ensured that the members of the immediate family have been notified.
Disappearances, especially disappearances of children, capture media attention. In these circumstances we play a role by publishing information to facilitate the search for and return of the missing person – notably under the Amber Alert protocol. At the same time, we keep a critical distance and report the facts while treating those involved with consideration.
In many Canadian municipalities and regions, CBC has adhered to an Amber Alert protocol for quick, regular and continuing broadcast and publication of information facilitating the search for a missing child who police believe has been abducted and who could be in danger. This information generally includes details identifying the missing child and can be broadcast or posted online while the Amber Alert is in effect. To determine the conditions under which this information is published and the point at which its publication should cease, we refer to the procedures put in place by CBC for deployment of an Amber Alert.
If the person is found and charges are laid in connection with the disappearance, we follow the usual rules and practices concerning identification of accused persons, witnesses and victims regardless of their prior identification in broadcasts of publications while the search was ongoing.
See also When CBC Acts as an Emergency Broadcaster – Amber Alerts.