I've had people ask why I didn't share information about the police situation at Six Trails Apartments.
For one, I had left my phone at home while walking the dog and missed a couple of texts from people telling me of the situation. On the way back to my house, I saw an Ann Arbor police cruiser with its lights flashing on Ann Arbor Street.
When I got in the house I had a lot of catching up to do. One of the first things I did was post a question about the police car on the Saline Posts Facebook group. At this point, it was a curiosity and my plan was to head to Livonia to ref a ball hockey game. Then I saw a couple of Facebook messages about an armored vehicle. And then I saw 30-minute old texts telling me about a potential barricaded gunman. Then I saw that I'd missed a call from someone in the emergency field. I returned that call and I learned police didn't want me to post anything on social media or on the website. I don't usually take kindly to government requests to suppress information - but with emergency workers, I think there's another standard.
So I quickly deleted my post. Police feared the situation was potentially volatile, and that posting pictures of armored vehicles and SWAT officers who looked like soldiers might trip the situation.
I arrived at the scene and saw residents being turned away. At this point, not broadcasting is becoming a more difficult decision. And, to my mind, somewhat futile. My phone was blowing up with people asking questions. As I suspected, posts were already being made on Facebook, including our own Saline Posts Facebook group, and other social media channels,
I learned from an officer at the scene that Police Chief Hart was on duty so I called him. He confirmed he wanted me to keep things quiet, for the safety of police, the residents and the man at the center of the situation. I relayed my thoughts about the futility of trying to keep things quiet in the age of social media. But I agreed to his request, because he knew more about the volatility of the situation than I did.
The situation ended well. Nobody was hurt. And that's the main thing.
Still, I wonder if there was a better way to serve the public interest than radio silence.
Could the public interest have been served by posting a quick piece saying there is a police action taking place at Six Trails Parks and residents are advised to stay in their homes, or not return home until further notice. Such a notice, without posting the alarming pictures of SWAT team members and armored vehicles, might serve the public interest without throwing gas on the fire.
It's a question I'll think about and be ready to ask of police next time such a situation arises.
If you have any thoughts about information you want to know during events like these, please post your thoughts below.