Image copyright Kenosha Police Department Image caption Sheriff David Beth had become frustrated with the media’s delay in reporting key facts in the case
A Wisconsin sheriff has made a public show of appreciation for members of the media – just hours after telling them to “shut up”.
Deputy Sheriff David Beth issued the hugs to reporters in the courthouse corridor and said: “As a public servant, I want to acknowledge the work you’re doing here today.”
Beth has been accused of wrongly turning away photographers and reporters on the day of a 2017 uprising in his town.
Earlier, he had said they would be arrested for being out on the streets without a “valid reason”.
Image copyright Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office Image caption Friends of the Rittenhouse family hold a vigil for Diana Rittenhouse in the village of Rittenhouse, Wisconsin, in July 2018
An attorney representing six “media shield” cases lodged against the sheriff said his actions had been “disgraceful”.
RACIAL HARASSMENT CASE
On Wednesday, he claimed police were being wrongly tipped off not to record or report details of incidents when he issued a series of online warnings that photographers and TV reporters would be arrested.
A small percentage of the news organisations that had been repeatedly contacted had not replied, he said.
“Do not sit in a position where you are causing harm to the society in which you are working,” he had told them at a news conference.
Image copyright Kenosha Police Department Image caption A Kenosha police car at the scene of the police standoff on 27 July
“Because of the way I speak… they are gonna be out here for a long time, within the view of this building, and by not being here, they’re actually going to be causing harm.”
The statement, from his department’s spokesman, was published on the department’s website.
It prompted several publications to describe Mr Beth as a “media hater”.
That is because he criticised the media for its coverage of a 2016 police shooting of Nakia Jones, 20, in a park in which the woman was fatally shot.
The incident had been reported online, but no images of the incident were ever made public.
In its defence, the Sheriff’s Office said at the time that the woman’s actions had been dangerous and a weapon was used on the officers, despite witnesses saying the woman was unarmed.
Mr Beth also had an encounter with a BBC journalist at the scene of the 21 July 2017 march against police brutality – which turned into a standoff.
The deputies had cordoned off the area so riot police could assemble on the street outside the courthouse and the officers did not know about this and had to force their way in to interview the BBC journalist.
They decided they could not deal with him and threatened to arrest him – only then informing him they had not done so.