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Pulp Puts Herald In The Hot Seat

Carol Marbin Miller is moving on the Bay County boot camp death again, this time writing about FDLE director Guy Tunnell's e-mails about the investigation. The headline on the Web: "E-mails put Florida investigator in hot seat."

Now I may be jaded, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of explosive information in these e-mails. Sure, the fact that Tunnell is a former Bay County Sheriff himself, is friend of the current sheriff, and started the boot camp in question raises troubling questions about his (im)partiality. But the e-mails? Well, let's look at a couple of them.

The story emphasizes Tunnell's sending the Bay County Sheriff, a friend of Tunnell's who operates the boot camp, a couple of e-mails assuring him that the videotape of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson being manhandled at the camp wouldn't be released.

That's seems exactly the position you would expect an investigator to have. Give me a lawman who wants to release information before he's completed his investigations and I'll show you a lawman who isn't going to last in his job very long.

Then Miller goes into an e-mail he sent on his Blackberry to all Florida sheriffs regarding a state discussion about changing the way the state's boot camps are run: ''I know -- I'm singing to the choir -- just feels good to get it off my chest!,'' Tunnell wrote. ''For YEARS, we [the Bay County Sheriff's Office] asked for more equitable funding so as to allow us to expand the services, offering transitional phases, step-down, etc., only to be met with more bureaucratic red tape, frustration, etc. 'THERE . . . I DO feel better!''

Okay, Tunnell seems to be admitting that boot camps need help. That to me is a good thing. What am I missing?

All in all, the e-mails don't prove anything and certainly don't put Tunnell in any "hot seat." I'm not saying they aren't worthy of print (they do show that Tunnell has a bit of a bunker mentality) but to splash the story on the front page and act like these little notes are bombshells just wasn't responsible on the Herald's part. I know Miller has done good work on this and I know the Herald is on a crusade -- and I like that -- but overplaying things like this only hurts the paper's credibility and makes it look just as partial as Tunnell might be.

PBSO Goes Waco On Lady At Boca Pointe The Palm Beach Post's Stephanie Slater has a well-reported story on the shooting of a 56-year-old schizophrenic woman in her home by a Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy yesterday. They say she came at them with a knife. They go into a crazy old(er) lady's house and kill her? This reeks of bad training and bad judgement on the part of the cops from the get-go. Way to make us feel safer, PBSO. The Other Homeless Beating Speaking of Palm Beach crime, the teenager in that other homeless attack has been charged with attempted murder. This is the one that happened in Riviera Beach that you probably haven't heard about. Why? Well, according to the "staff report" (yeah this didn't even warrant a byline, apparently), it was because the black youths who committed the crime weren't specifically targeting homeless men. They just happened upon him. Hence, it's not as big a story.


Latoyia Figueroa

We all know it's because of one simple fact: The perpetrators in the Riviera Beach attack were black. Society simply doesn't view that as much outside the norm. But when white suburban teens do it in Fort Lauderdale, it goes national. It's the same reason you know everything about Laci Peterson but never heard of Latoyia Figueroa.

While some of this is due to the simple nature of news, reporters are partly to blame. I guarantee you that if the Post put a team of reporters on the story of the Riviera Beach beating, they could find as rich a human story as Brian F-ing Hooks ever gave them.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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