Sunday, February 27, 2011

All's well that ends well

This news clip, about a Georgia town where a police officer halted sidewalk sales of Girl Scout cookies at a strip mall because they didn't have a peddler's permit, showed up over at HuffPost with the usual "Stormtroopers Crack Down" headlines and the predictable "shame on those officers" comments from the readers who didn't take the occasion to slam the Girl Scouts or Michelle Obama.

Pardon me if I find the clip loaded with good news nearly all around.

First, there was a misunderstanding between the police officer and the Scout leaders, and we don't know how it actually unfolded. There isn't much direct indication that the officer was hostile or confrontational, though, and it's sad that one little girl thought the adults were all going to jail. But kids that age have pretty active imaginations and you can't always lay the blame for how their minds work on anything specific they've been told.

That aside, it looks like this was handled well. The police did a nice job of explaining their point of view, how the law is intended to act and what may have gone wrong. They apologized to the kids, let them go on with only one day's interruption in their sale and made a good attempt to repair whatever misconceptions those kids may have had over the role of police in the community.

And the TV news didn't insist that the first impression was going to be what was reported. The reporter appears to have gone out and gathered the facts before she decided how to report what happened. She didn't feel compelled to stick with the "storm troopers" angle and then add "but others say" in order to downgrade the information that didn't fit her predetermined narrative.

This shouldn't be rare enough to merit comment, but that's the fact, jack. And, as evidence of how rare it is, a look at Google News shows that the rest of the media seem to have all picked up the story as a chance to flog the big bad brutal cops, even though none appear to have seen anything more than the clip above.

I thought the police chief did an excellent, articulate job of explaining not only what happened but why the new law exists in the first place, and now we get into my own personal take on this sort of thing:

I haven't seen Girl Scouts out selling cookies to passing cars and I doubt I would. But I have long argued that  "boot drives" and other in-traffic fundraisers not only provide the kids with bad adult input on overall safety but are an incredibly sad and expensive lawsuit waiting to shut down the organizations that use them and the towns that allow them.

Which brings us to a very early strip in Bill Hinds' late lamented strip about youth sports, "Cleats," which you can still read in reruns here.

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