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Milwaukee Officer Sues TV Station for Defamation

July 03, 2013  | 

Screenshot via WTMJ.
Screenshot via WTMJ.
A Milwaukee Police officer has sued NBC affiliate WTMJ for "defamation of professional reputation" after the station aired a story that showed him in a negative light even though he had done nothing wrong.

Officer Matthew Knight's lawsuit names WTMJ and Journal Broadcast Group. The station is owned by the parent company of the Journal Sentinel.

The story aired surveillance video showing Knight and what police said was a drunk Marine waking up to an ATM. The video shows the officer taking out the man's ATM card, punching in the man's pin, withdrawing money, then counting the money and leaving.

The promo for the story said, "A Milwaukee police officer taking a man's cash out of an ATM. Then walking off with that cash in hand. What's really going on? The Milwaukee Police Department has some explaining to do."

The story failed to mention that police were called when the man broke a taxicab's window. The cabdriver agreed not to press charges if the man paid $300 to repair the damage. The officer was helping the man withdraw the money to pay the cabbie. Knight had been cleared two months before the story aired after an internal investigation.

Tags: Milwaukee PD, Officer Conduct, Officer Exonerated, Police-Media Relations


Comments (13)

Displaying 1 - 13 of 13

RPG @ 7/4/2013 6:30 AM

This is just another example of the media creating a story where none exists. The government and law enforcement are apparently easy targets for a lazy profession that tends to print first and verify... never. This reminds my of the producer in Florida that edited the 911 call to make George Zimmerman appear make a racist statement to stir the public hysteria against him. The police are rarely allowed to defend themselves. The media believes this lack of response to be a license to say whatever they want and get away with it. Thats what their lawyers are for, right?

Jimbo @ 7/4/2013 7:12 AM

Yep, reporters are a lot more lazy nowadays. Partly it's the fault of the bosses. They have cut back so much on staff they don't have time to do a proper investigation. It's also partly the fault of the reporters. Their laziness makes them forget the two independent source rule. Without that, you don't have a story. And you NEVER air such a tape without FIRST getting the side of the department. If you don't, and you get it wrong, this TV station will NEVER get ANY help from the department. Their competition will get all exclusives, all perp walks, all tips on arrests, all tips on big juicy cases, all tips on juicy arrests and investigations in to VIPs and politicians, and everything else.
It's good this officer is filing a civil action. It'll make them think twice.

Mike @ 7/4/2013 7:48 AM

"Reporters" today aren't interested in reporting the truth, or the whole story. Apparently Journalism School teaches them that it's OK to manufacture the news instead of reporting the facts.
"Citizen Kane" journalism at it's best.

Neil @ 7/4/2013 8:33 AM

Good, hope the officer wins the lawsuit with enough to retire. Typical, non-LE folks, jumping the gun without hearing all the facts. With the public filming officers while conducting business and putting it on YOUTUBE now days, everybody get to type in and bash the officer, giving their "armchair-lawyer" opinions on what he should have done differently. We are expected to make split second decisions and pray they turn out right, yet the public gets to "monday morning quarterback" the videos and bitch on how it should have been handled differently by the cops. The officer should be given a medal as far as Im concerned for helping the marine out and not taking him to jail for Criminal Damage. Shame on you WTMJ!

dkiss @ 7/4/2013 8:46 AM

There is a thing called the reporters code of ethics, if law enforcement is held to their code of ethics why aren't reporters? I doubt if any know that it exists and only have a desire to sensationalize and force their beliefs on the public.

Harold Sims @ 7/4/2013 8:46 AM

As we've seen in the Zimmerman smears, the mainstream media is liberal, lazy, and dishonest. Naturally the MSM jumps at an excuse to smear an LEO. I hope this officer is able to teach these sanctimonious hypocrites a very expensive lesson.

TC @ 7/4/2013 11:25 AM

No good deed goes unpunished. This should be a lesson to all the officers out there. If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. There was a thought of impropriety, and they ran with it. We all want to be helpful in some way, if it will allow us to move onto the next call. The officer's job description ended at "arrest or not". His good intention was what got him in trouble. Am I surprised this happened, no. Knight, watch your six. There are people out there looking to catch you at your worst.

M.Conner @ 7/4/2013 1:18 PM

Quarterbacking at its finest. But if the soldier was to drunk to withdraw money from his account it should have ended there and off to jail he went. The officer tried to help him out and it bite him in the arse. I agree with TC and I also applaud the officer for going above and beyond.

Sgt. Mike @ 7/4/2013 7:25 PM

One of the rules of journalism is "not to become the story." I'm glad this Officer has held their feet to the fire and turned the tables on them.

God speed to him.

Lt. paul steed @ 7/5/2013 7:30 AM

I agree with the comments thus far but a rule of thumb since I first graduated the academy in 1982 is never place yourself in a position that could be construed or look dishonest, crooked or illegal. I personally would never have taken the funds out of the man's account for the mere fact that in his inebriated state he can not legally give consent and could easily claim that it was coerced or even stolen.

Trigger @ 7/8/2013 6:38 AM

What this officer did was noble, he took care of a problem in a way that made everyone involved happy. Documentation of the events such as these are crital in protecting the officer(s) involved. I have done the same with individuals who needed cash to post bond. Document, document, document.....

krisnlc @ 7/8/2013 8:25 AM

Bravo for the police officer and one for the good guys. I am hopeful that the news station loses and has to change policy to report honestly and accurately instead of glamourizing* stories for their own purpose. Secondly, what this officer did is not wrong, but takes you back to the days of "peace officers" not simply law enforcement.... "to protect and to serve" is what happened here by this officer. This should occur more often, and you will see the respect for law enforcement {peace officers} again improve. Good job officer helping this person to avoid an unneccessary arrest costing $100's of dollars and I hope you win your lawsuit.... Blah NBC Blah.

Steve @ 7/10/2013 11:39 AM

Betcha' the media filled in their own blanks on this because the department wouldn't give them a story. That's what our locals do. I hope this officer winds up owning the affiliate and NBC!!! Not much chance of that though... the low lifes will scream freedom of speech, blah, blah blah!

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