NBC4’s Yellow Journalism Gets Parking Enforcement Chief Ousted

LOS ANGELES—NBC4, the network’s Los Angeles affiliate, is a lot like Mitt Romney in that it likes to get people fired. The station is taking credit for the forced retirement of Jimmy Price, L.A.’s longtime parking enforcement chief, as well as the forced resignation of his deputy chief, 30-year veteran Rudy Carrasco.

“LA Parking Enforcement has been under fire since last May, when NBC4 exposed how two officers dressed in uniform appeared in a porn movie,” crowed NBC4.

AVN covered that story at the time, which involved two officers who were unwittingly caught up in an impromptu shoot on a San Fernando Valley street in 2008. While it is true that the officers were “caught on camera,” the entire segment lasted only a few minutes and involved minimal physical contant not initiatiated by the officers.

Still, the resulting “exposé” by NBC4 sealed the officers’ fate; one was fired in July and the other received “appropriate discipline.” But that was apparently not enough for NBC4, whose over-the-top coverage of such a minor incident that, let us repeat, was unplanned and unintended by anyone involved in the situation, led the station to up the ante by publishing another “exposé” less than a month after the first.

In that one, porn was not an actor but prostitutes supposedly were. “Less than a month after breaking the story of two on-duty L.A. traffic officers who allegedly appeared in a pornographic movie,” the station reported on its own coverage, “NBC4 LA has uncovered what insiders say is a disturbing pattern of unchecked misconduct inside the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.”

Note the reference to “insiders,’ which naturally indicates DOT employees mad enough to tip the media but not brave enough to put their names to it. The report adds several specific claims that are not supported by actual documentation, though the article claims that “the misbehavior NBCLA [has been] documented in confidential files, public records and interviews with seven LADOT sources.”

The article includes a total of four allegations:

 * An LADOT officer “punched” a motorist who yelled at him.

 * The same officer later threw a heavy steel padlock at a supervisor.

* An on-duty LADOT officer was arrested while soliciting a prostitute. Two additional officers have been convicted of soliciting prostitutes.

* An LADOT officer was convicted of shoplifting from a West L.A. Macy’s, and then later was arrested again on a charge of shoplifting from a supermarket.

“All of these employees remain on the job, and have undergone little or no disciplinary action, according to sources within LADOT, even though city policy recommends discipline in cases of misconduct,” the article stated, again without providing a name or any documentation to support the claim.

Keep in mind that the traffic enforcement division is comprised of 670 officers who hand out more than $100 million in traffic tickets every year. Singling out less than a dozen for allegedly egregious behavior does not seem to rise to the level of a crisis, which is how NBC4 characterized the situation within the department.

Also note that NBC4 used the following lurid headline for its May 2 story: "City Workers Make Porn Film While on the Job."

Of course, NBC4 knew very well that to state that the officers "made" a porn film was a total exaggeration of the facts, and yet they went ahead and did it anyway. This sort of sensationalist reporting is the very definition of yellow journalism, and the result in this case is the ignominious end to the careers of three city employees who may have worked for the hated Traffic Enforcement division, but still should have been treated more fairly by a local news outfit and a city bureaucracy apparently unable or unwilling to stand up to a news station willing to tar and feather anyone in its pursuit of an “exposé.”

But let’s be clear here. NBC4 did little digging to get its red meat. In the first instance, all they had to do was watch some porn, and in the second wait for some disgruntled employees who used some very low-level internal infractions to discredit the entire department.

All involved should feel really proud of themselves for getting the bad guys and making Los Angeles safe from porn. Now, it looks like the L.A. City Council is following their lead by passing a law being promoted by a self-serving organization that plays fast and loose with the facts. What's crazy about all of this is that each of these actions will only cost the city more money it does not have to spend on dubious firings and inane laws.