Way back on September 23 on the Fullerton Rag Facebook page I chided the Fullerton Police Department for posting nothing on their official website, Fullerton Police News, about the City Council’s recent hiring of the Office of Independent Review to periodically audit the FPD. The Fullerton Police News features stories about police officers volunteering their time for the community, tales of dangerous arrests, advice about safety and how to spot drug use among teens, as well as other articles supportive of the department’s actions. But even though the City Council had approved spending $ 120,000 on an auditor for an ongoing review of various aspects of the FPD’s performance, the site’s normally prolific author, Anthony F. Irwin, seemed to have nothing to say about the most significant event affecting the department since the hiring of Dan Hughes as Chief nine months ago.
Then, four days after my scribble on Facebook, the FPN published an article entitled Police chief: ‘Hold ourselves to the highest standards’. As one might expect, it is standard puffery, painting Chief Dan Hughes as a reformer with high standards and celebrating the departments implementation of most of Michael Gennaco’s “suggestions” contained in his 2012 report following the beating death of Kelly Thomas by FPD officers. Chief Hughes is quoted as saying that “We are a much better police department than we were two years ago, and we’ll continue to improve if we hold ourselves to the highest standards.”
Mr. Irwin, who also writes for the Anaheim Police Department’s website Behind the Badge, boldly states of the Chief that “When it comes to use-of-force and in-custody death investigations, he also wants the outcome to match the evidence.” High standards indeed…
What seemed like run-of-the-mill propaganda became slightly more interesting when I noticed the exact same article on the OC Register’s website,but this time under the byline “Bill Rams, Behind the Badge.” Mr. Rams is described as a “guest columnist,” although The Register publishes several stories each month about Anaheim and Fullerton police under his byline. Bill Rams is also described as “a former Register reporter who owns a boutique communications company. Anaheim P.D. (or Fullerton, depending on the story) is a client.”
His company is called Cornerstone Communications, a public relations firm “who excel at crafting and executing creative, nimble, results-driven campaigns and projects.” Should the OC Register uncritically publish “stories” that are written by a PR firm paid to make their clients, including the Anaheim and Fullerton Police Departments, look good? And just how much are the people of Fullerton paying Cornerstone Communications to paint a rosy picture of our police force for us?
Mr. Irwin and Mr. Rams are also credited as “Community contributors” to an article entitled Taking on Crime: Fullerton Cops Making a Difference, found in the December, 2013 issue of a free magazine called Fullerton Life, distributed to unsuspecting residents of our city. The article also features a photograph of smiling children straight from the title image of the FPD’s Facebook page. Fullerton Life is published by Hibu, a British marketing company, who publish, among other things, on-demand magazines for individual municipalities, like Fullerton.
So, if it ever seems like the Rag spends too much digital ink writing about the Fullerton Police Department, just consider how much time the FPD spends writing about themselves.