WMAQ-Channel 5 is taking the rap for a story posted briefly online that misidentified the police chief of west suburban Aurora, Illinois, as her counterpart in Aurora, Colorado.
The story concerned the firing of three police officers from Aurora, Colorado, who appeared in photos showing them reenact a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police stopped him on the street in the Denver suburb.
An initial version of the story, written by NBC’s national digital team in New York, mistakenly referred to Kristen Ziman as police chief of Aurora, Colorado, when she is actually chief of the Aurora Police Department in Illinois.
The story appeared late Friday on the website of the NBC-owned station here and also turned up on NBC 5’s Facebook page before the error was spotted and corrected by NBC 5. (Here is the link.)
"The post was shared numerous times and screenshots of the post have circulated on social media, causing assumptions that the wrongdoing was by our officers in the Aurora Illinois Police Department," the department said in a statement Friday.
"Unfortunately, the error during these days of raw emotions can lead to unintended consequences, criticism, and condemnation directed at our police department. We expect the media to hold us accountable, but we also expect the media to check their facts."
The following note was added to the NBC 5 story: "CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the acting chief of Colorado's Aurora Police Department as the police chief in Aurora, Illinois. Vanessa Williams is the interim chief of the Aurora Police Department in Colorado. Kristen Ziman is the chief of the Aurora Police department in Illinois. We apologize for this error."
NBC 5 also aired an apology on its 10 p.m. newscast Friday — even though the error never ran on TV.
Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, declined further comment.
Here is the text of the Aurora Police Department statement:
APD Statement - Chicago media report incorrectly identifies Aurora (IL) Police Department in story about Colorado.
On Friday evening, a media report from NBC 5 in Chicago incorrectly identified Chief Kristen Ziman and the Aurora Illinois Police Department in a situation involving the Aurora Colorado Police Department.
The story was about the firing of Aurora, Colorado police officers after they mocked the death of an Aurora, Colorado teenager, Elijah McClain, in photographs. In the social media post and article, NBC 5 incorrectly identified the police chief as Aurora Illinois Police Chief Kristen Ziman. The post was shared numerous times and screenshots of the post have circulated on social media, causing assumptions that the wrongdoing was by our officers in the Aurora Illinois Police Department.
As soon as our Office of Public Information was made aware of the social media post and web article, we immediately contacted NBC 5 and made them aware of their error. They removed the social media post and corrected the online article.
Unfortunately, the error during these days of raw emotions can lead to unintended consequences, criticism, and condemnation directed at our police department. We expect the media to hold us accountable, but we also expect the media to check their facts.
After contacting NBC 5, we received an apology from NBC 5’s Vice President of News. The station also publicly apologized for their error. The Aurora Police Department and Chief Kristen Ziman appreciates the effort made by the staff at NBC 5 to correct the error.
We have no connection to the matter in Aurora, Colorado. In the future, we hope in that the media takes the time to call and fact check their information before posting it.
Right now is a pivotal moment in our history. The Aurora Illinois Police Department is engaged and committed to ongoing conversations about racial equity, further building and strengthening bonds with the neighborhoods we serve. All law enforcement needs to be having this conversation across the country, but we need everyone’s help.
The Aurora Illinois Police Department sees itself as a partner of the people that call Aurora home. Our officers are dedicated to daily responsibility of protecting and working alongside our community as #OneAurora.
Friday’s comment of the day: Ron Magers: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My pursuit of happiness is being seriously impaired by the selfishness of individuals who believe they have a constitutional right to spread Covid 19. How about you can go mask free after you renounce your right to insurance and medical care of any kind and will be liable for any contact that results in a confirmed case. And, by the way, non-mask wearers should also take seat belts out of their vehicles and never wear a cycle helmet. Live free.