Sgt. Joseph Gentile, a PIO with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department for the past 35 years and on the force almost 40 years, has dealt with many cases involving victimization and a number of high profile cases including the disappearance and unsolved death of Chandra Levy, the Air Florida crash, the attempted assassination of former President Ronald Reagan, and the murder of two deaf students at the Gallaudet College for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Washington, D.C. Highly respected by the D.C. media, Gentile explains that every case in the police department is treated equally. "We reassure people we will do everything we can to bring it to closure. The media decides what is high profile," he says.
Kevin Morison, Communications Director for the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund and former Communications Director for the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, acknowledges the importance of sensitivity issues regarding victims. "Law enforcement agencies are more sensitive to the needs of victims and survivors overall. The news media has to get information and get it out. Both sides need to be sensitive."
In the news business almost four decades, Gary Reals, a reporter for WUSA Channel 9 in Washington, D.C. says, "Every case is different. Every reporter tries to get a feel given the circumstances of the case. We are very sensitive to the victims."
It is essential that public information officers and the media establish relationships comprised of respect, trust, fairness and consistency to facilitate accurate and sensitive reporting on victim issues. Lorraine Whoberry, whose one daughter was murdered and whose other daughter survived an extremely violent and brutal attack combined with a sexual assault, poignantly summarizes the heart of the matter when she says, "The family has suffered the greatest tragedy of all, the murder of a loved one. For a moment, to the best of your ability, step into those parents shoes. Grasp the fleeting moment of fear, shock, and disbelief as you are being told your child is gone. Gone where? You ask. How would you feel being the parent and told this devastating news and all the person on the other side wants is a story"?