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How do media know that suspect has been arrested?

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#1 ArthurHislop


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Posted 20 November 2012 - 04:04 PM

Hello. I'm new to this forum, and I hope that I'm using it properly and that I'll manage to find an answer to my question.

I am currently a witness in a police investigation. I know that it's very important that I do not talk to anyone about this, and I have followed absolutely the advice that I've been given by the OIC, not even talking to some of my closest family members and friends about it. I should point out, therefore, that the name I'm using here is not my real name (I chose it by picking two books at random from my bookshelves and taking the first name of the author of the first book and the surname of the author of the second book).

The investigation has not yet reached the stage at which it is possible for the suspect to be arrested, but I know that once one or two further statements have been made he/she is going to be arrested on suspicion of certain offences. What I am wondering is, how do the media find out that a suspect has been arrested?

I know that police forces issue very brief statements to the media, noting the time, date, and location (broadly speaking, e.g. Manchester, Warwickshire, etc) of the arrest, the sex of the suspect, his or her age (again, broadly speaking, 20s, 30s, etc), the nature of the offence(s), the location of the police station where the suspect was taken into custody, and bail arrangements. One question that I have is how the police decide which arrests should be announced in this way to the media. The MPS, for example, announces an arrest around once every two days, which obviously is just a tiny proportion of the total number of arrests.

When these arrests are published in the media, the reports are normally very much more detailed, usually stating the suspect's name, even though the police force concerned will only ever confirm that the arrest has taken place, not who was arrested. How do the media receive this information? I know that individual officers do not provide details to the media. Is the information gathered from neighbours, passers-by, etc?

I know that in some investigations publicity surrounding the arrest of a suspect leads to more witnesses coming forward to provide information. Do the police welcome, or even encourage, media coverage of an investigation, hoping that it will lead to more witnesses coming forward?

I know that I could probably get more information about this from the OIC, but he/she has already discussed the media aspect with me, so I don't want to waste his/her time and/or seem to be unduly concerned about this question.

Thank you very much to anyone who is able to provide me with any information about this.

#2 ArthurHislop


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Posted 20 November 2012 - 06:09 PM

Since this post has had 46 views and no replies I'm just wondering whether I ought to provide a little clarification. I am certainly not raising this question with any intentions in mind as to any possible course of action that I might be able to take, which I know would be both illegal and morally wrong. I just want to have some idea of what will happen when the arrest takes place, as I would like to be as prepared as I possibly can be for whatever series of events is likely to develop as a result of this happening.

I should say at this point, and I almost said it in my original post, that in the course of this investigation I've had to deal with eight police officers and one member of civilian staff, and I could not hold the police in higher esteem. Somebody recently put the question to be (rhetorically), 'Why don't people like the police', as if taking for granted that I too didn't like the police. All of the officers, as well as the civilian SRO, with whom I have had to deal have nothing but my utmost respect and gratitude.

#3 ArthurHislop


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Posted 20 November 2012 - 06:25 PM

"to be"="to me" (no editing rights).

#4 Anna32



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Posted 20 November 2012 - 06:28 PM


Welcome to the forum!

Don't worry- there's no problem with that question at all. The reason people may have not replied is that it's quite a specialist issue- most forces will have a press/ PR/ Media department who handle this type of thing, and most employees don't know all the workings. If nobody has any specific information (eg, if any of our members work in police media or have dealt with them closely) you could either phone the non emergency enquiries number, or you could try searching your force website for their media department and give them a call on their public line (or contact them on twitter). :smile:

#5 ArthurHislop


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Posted 20 November 2012 - 09:01 PM

Anna, thanks very much. As I'm sure you can imagine, when people are witnesses in police investigations there's a lot to worry about. I would go on to say more, but I think that it might provide too much information that might be damaging to the course of justice. I can, as I said before, just ask the OIC for more information about this, and I can also try posting the question in another forum that might be geared more towards the media than policing. I think that that's also a very good idea to try contacting my local police force's press bureau, and I'm sure that if I were to explain the situation to them they would probably be able to tell me what was likely to happen.

#6 GeorgeH



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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:39 PM

Never underestimate the press.

#7 ArthurHislop


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Posted 21 November 2012 - 02:38 AM

Never underestimate the press.

Aha. Meaning what, more precisely?

#8 stewie_griffin



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Posted 21 November 2012 - 05:00 AM

The police tell the press when they've made an arrest. If it's a high profile case like a murder the police are only too happy to say that they're making progress, but there's still every chance that the person arrested might not be charged with anything, so they usually say, 'A x year old man has been arrested.' If it's very high profile, then the press might find out who the police have arrested by speaking to neighbours or others close to the case and then go on to name the suspect by saying, 'The police have arrested a man known locally as John Smith' however the police aren't allowed to name people they arrest,

In routine cases, arrests aren't big news, but if someone is subsequently charged with an offence or is found guilty in court, that's a matter of public record and the person will generally be named (but there are exceptions.)

#9 aous


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Posted 23 November 2012 - 02:14 PM

Like above, the police do not generally announce that they've made arrests unless the case is high profile (murder typically) or they want a 'good news' story (e.g. "three males have been arrested following a string burglaries in the local area"). There are quite strict rules in this respect, like you've already alluded to, people are not named and the police try not to put enough information out there to allow the press to identify the person or for jigsaw identification to be made. In cases with a high public interest, investigative journalists will work on clues to identify the person (speaking to neighbours and dare I say it, naive or corrupt police employees).

Police do not actively announce other arrests including those for very serious matters (serious assaults, rapes, frauds etc) as to do that would raise the fear of crime amongst other things. Even general arrest rates are not announced.

What does happen is that the press will ask the police to confirm the arrest of a specific person or a suspect for a specific case. Normally the police would not announce this but because the press are asking, they have to say something. There's no point them saying "I can't comment on that" if the press asks "have you arrested celebrity xyz" because the public would generally take that as a "yes". Instead they use the generic statements such as "a 26 year old male has been arrested". Given enough information, they press usually then name that celebrity or at least sit outside their houses waiting for them to get back in the first place.

As of how the press get the information in the first place is a question for a member of the press rather than the police! It could range from anything from a tip from a member of the public seeing a celebrity going into a police station, another arrestee seeing that person in the cells and informing the press on release, the press camping up at celeb's houses, tips from the solicitors/corrupt officials etc. The press will use some of the techniques police use to establish who suspects are and may already be sat waiting for them to be arrested.

#10 popularfurball



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Posted 23 November 2012 - 02:46 PM

If it all takes off in the media like you suspect - you will also have yours eyes opened to how mis reported incidents are! Even seemingly obvious things - like it was reported that Nicky and Fiona were sent to arrest Cregan - why would two unarmed officers ever be sent to an arrest attempt of that severity?! They wouldn't - especially when there are swamps of armed officers in the area! It's quite bizarre and eye opening really.

As said above there are naive/corrupt officers, and there are also a lot of people who try to make a quick buck out of it.

#11 ArthurHislop


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Posted 23 November 2012 - 11:44 PM

Hello. Thanks very much. This is very useful. I think that it's extremely unlikely that officers involved in this case are corrupt or naive.

The investigation currently has no profile whatsoever. Police officers and staff aside, currently a total of six people know that this investigation is taking place. It is also very unlikely that anybody who had been arrested on suspicion of an unrelated offence would be able to identify the suspect. Based on what I've been told here, I think that the only possible way in which information about an arrest would reach the media would be if it were to be provided by immediate neighbours, who would be able to identify the suspect, or by family, friends, or former colleagues of the suspect.

I wouldn't say that I *suspect* that it will all take off in the media; I think that it very much depends whether the media get hold of the story. Based on what I've been told here, I think that there is every chance that the media won't get hold of this story, which would suit be very well.

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