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Perfect Example of Social Media Bypassing Traditional Media with a Rational and Compelling Story

Justin Hanners
Hanners Family photo

Justin Hanners’ Family

This story is quite interesting.  It is a perfect example of how social media can bypass traditional media outlets and share a compelling rational story. It could also be an example of how social media might spur on coverage by the traditional media outlets: print, TV and radio. We’ll have to see if they pick up the story, too. (Maybe they already have and I just haven’t seen it.) The video below was just posted today and already has 971 views as of this posting.

This video is about an Auburn police officer’s grievance with the department over policy (police quotas) and it is interesting.  The officer is Justin Hanners and he is also an Air Force veteran.

Part of the story refers to former Police Chief Tommy Dawson.  He retired on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. (Source)  Dawson has a strong faithful following in Auburn.  He presided over the investigations of many high profile crimes, among them the murder of Lauren Burk five years ago and the shooting last year of two former Auburn football players.  Dawson retired because he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease last year.

What is missing is the viewpoint of the city. So, how will they respond? Will they see this as ‘just some YouTube video’ and ignore it or will they post a response? Will they seek out and comment on other social media accounts where it is being discussed?  This could wind up being a great case study for how to react to a crisis. Will the Auburn City leaders handle it well … or will it get worse? It will be interesting to watch.

The strangest twist for the City may be explaining why, “Mayor Ham presented five-year service pins to Justin Hanners of the Public Safety Department.” One would guess that he must have been at least a decent employee to have lasted more than five years on the police force. (See Auburn City Council Minutes, August 2011 or see this link to the PDF on Auburn’s website.)

One downside for Hanners’ story may be how to explain the recorded comments by Sgt. Trey Neal.  The audio appears to come from a meeting with officers, perhaps a daily roll call, and Neal makes statements outlining the quotas.  Well, in Alabama anyone may record anything so long as one person is aware the recording is taking place.  However, does the Auburn Police Department have rules on recording meetings?  I don’t know.

Lots of questions.  Few answers.  We’ll see how all this plays out.

By the way, the source of this story is ReasonTV. From their YouTube channel, “ReasonTV is your source for the best libertarian videos on the Internet and the home of the Drew Carey Project, a series of documentary shorts hosted by Drew Carey. For more information, please visit www.reason.com/reasontv.”

I don’t know how ReasonTV got the story, although there is a very large Libertarian movement in Auburn. If anyone knows who – locally – produced the project or caused it to be covered, I’d love to know. They’d be a great resource for further understanding this case study.

Update:  The War Eagle Reader has reported on this story.  They point out three things that help explain the story further.  Tracy Oppenheimer is the lead reporter on the story.  She has done two other stories in Auburn recently.

Tracy Openhemier

Tracy Openhemier

Tracy Oppenheimer joined Reason TV as a producer in 2011. She graduated from the University of Southern California with bachelor degrees in Broadcast Journalism and International Relations, and has worked for John Stossel’s program on Fox Business Network, KTLA Entertainment News, and NBC Nightly News. Tracy is Reason Foundation’s 2012 Searle New Media Fellow.

von Mises Compete Stats

von Mises Traffic Comparison

Also, the Ludwig von Mises Institute is located in Auburn. If you are not aware, their website is a very popular destination – especially among libertarians. The website currently attracts more than 92,000 unique monthly visitors and has peak periods of up to 130,000 unique visitors each month. (Source: Compete.com)

So, Oppenheimer’s familiarity with Auburn and their recent stories in the area combine with the possible connection to (or knowledge of) the von Mises Institute and may well help to explain why Reason.com (a Libertarian project) would know of Auburn and be pursuing stories here.

Update:  WSFA-TV 12 in Montgomery has picked up the story.   It aired last night (25July2013).  And, the City of Auburn has responded.

WSFA 12 News did get a written response from the City of Auburn late Thursday afternoon saying, “There’s more to the story than is being told. [Read full response here.]

City manager Charles Duggan went on to say, “We have investigated the accusations that have been made and have found them to be false. The City Attorney hired Bob Eddy (a former investigator at the Alabama Attorney General’s office) to conduct an investigation.

The Opelika-Auburn News has also covered the story. (Subscription may be required to read.)

The important part here is that the City of Auburn has responded now (only to mainstream media, you’ll notice) and they say Hanners’ claims are false. They even provide a 3rd party investigation to refute the claims. This, of course, doesn’t do much to counter the audio recordings that plainly illustrate someone giving orders for quotas to someone. We’ll see where it goes from here.

Auburn does state, “While understanding the importance of this issue with our citizens, the Auburn Police Division has not chosen to employ quotas for tickets or arrests to meet this goal. However, the message that there is a quota was wrongfully conveyed through supervisory channels to at least one patrol shift. When this was brought to the attention of Police administration last Fall, supervisory personnel were reminded of the appropriate way to communicate shift duties including the enforcement of traffic laws.”

That, however, does not match up with claims by other officers that wish to remain silent. It also does not match up with those citizens who claim they have (a) heard officers talk about the quotas and (b) citizens that claim they have seen officers boast about quotas on their Facebook pages. Those boasts, it seems, have now been removed – or the Facebook accounts have been closed.

Update: The Auburn Plainsman has also covered the Justin Hanners story. In fact, this Google search – justin hanners police fired quota – will give you an idea of the wide attention the story has received online.

Update: Fox News has now covered the story. Fox & Friends even had a live interview with Justin Hanners on their program.



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