Accuracy in Media

Radley Balko, the controversial writer driving much of the media discussion over police “militarization,” has a controversial history of getting important facts wrong. We are seeing how wrong he was in the terrorism taking place in Ferguson, Missouri.

Despite all the sensational stories and claims about the “militarized” police department, these local officers, working with the State Highway Patrol, were unable to deal with what Governor Jay Nixon (D) on Monday called “a violent criminal element intent upon terrorizing the community.”  He referred to “the firing upon law enforcement officers, the shooting of a civilian, the throwing of Molotov cocktails, looting and a coordinated attempt to overrun the unified Command Center.”

“Following coordinated attacks last night both on civilians and law enforcement officers,” he said, “I signed an executive order directing the Missouri National Guard to help restore peace and order in Ferguson.”

On the same day, he referred to “the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state…”

It’s not unreasonable to describe these coordinated attacks from the “violent criminal element” as terrorism. This is precisely why police agencies have to be “militarized.” It is clear in this case that the local and state police could not deal with the threats and violence.

But our media seem not to be concerned about the fact that all of their talk about the “militarization” of the police proved to be completely erroneous, and that more military power is on the way precisely because the criminals and terrorists are becoming too big a problem for the local or even the state police to handle.

As we noted yesterday, Balko’s Wall Street Journal article on the alleged “militarization” of the police was so full of inaccuracies that it was later attached to a very unusual 200-word correction. He has been exaggerating the degree to which police agencies at various levels of government have been using military equipment and tactics.

In another case, it took Balko a year to correct some false statements he made about a marijuana investigation and law enforcement visit to the home of someone named Cathy Jordan.

On March 17, he posted “A belated correction” at The Washington Post in which he said, “I did draw some conclusions in the post that I shouldn’t have.” Balko had claimed that deputies used “paramilitary” tactics and had brought “the boot down upon Cathy Jordan’s neck.” He now admits these claims were false.

“Finally,” he said, “I drew those conclusions based on initial online reports, including one in the Bradenton paper that was later amended. Still, instead of relying on reports from other publications, I should have called the Manatee Sheriff’s Department or the Jordans themselves to verify the details.”

Orlando attorney John Morgan made claims about the raid based upon Balko’s original story in The Huffington Post. PolitiFact looked into the claims and said, “No one was arrested or dragged out of their house by a SWAT team.”

The woman’s husband, Robert Jordan, referred to “the hyperbole about machine guns and police brutality” coming from Radley Balko’s article. He said it was “particularly loose with the facts,” adding, “No one asked me, or I would have told them the truth.”

Late last year Fred Hiatt and James Downie of The Washington Post announced they were hiring Balko as a blogger, insisting he was “one of the country’s top criminal justice reporters.” That reputation is now in doubt.

Balko came to The Washington Post from The Huffington Post, and had previously been a senior editor at Reason magazine, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and an opinion columnist for

One biography says he has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Time, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Slate, Forbes, ESPN, the National Post, Worth and numerous other publications. It says he has also appeared on the BBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and NPR. He is said to have a degree in journalism and political science.

In 2009, by his own admission, he blocked a blogger known as Patterico from reading his Twitter feed. Patterico had been critical of Balko’s articles, focusing on alleged errors and omissions in one particular case.

While Balko has a background of writing or working for libertarian organizations considered to be on the right-side of the political spectrum, he has also become extremely cozy with the far-left. On September 18, 2013, for example, Balko spoke at an event co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois, Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, National Lawyers Guild and People’s Law Office.

Once asked if he had been the victim of police misconduct, he said, “I had one incident that was scary, but just a misunderstanding.” He said a cop “pulled into my parking lot [on] an unrelated call, looked through my window, and apparently mistook” him and his then-girlfriend “horsing around as domestic violence.” He did not go into any more detail.

Balko was pleased in March when he learned that Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson (GA) had introduced a bill to “rein in police militarization.” A USA Today column on this topic was written by Johnson, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Michael Shank, associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Shank previously served as Senior Policy Advisor and Communications Director to Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA), another member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Shank is interested in far more than disarming local police agencies. His website features the following headlines based on his own articles or interviews:

  • Gaza Memo to Congress: Talk to Hamas
  • Of Drone Strikes and Violence: A Personal Search for Nonviolent Solutions in Yemen
  • Ukraine Crisis Underscores Need for Renewables Push
  • Sign a Drone Treaty Before Everyone Does as We Do
  • U.S. Credibility Around the World Damaged by Afghanistan War

Balko describes Shank as just an “activist,” though his far-left agenda is available for anyone to see. He seems to want to “de-militarize” the U.S military.

“Get the Military Off of Main Street Police” was the title of a New York Times column by Shank and Elizabeth R. Beavers, identified as “legislative associate for militarism and civil liberties” at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “Militarization is a growing national threat,” they said. “If the federal government doesn’t act to stop it, the future of law enforcement everywhere will look a lot like Ferguson.”

Ironically, however, neither the “militarized” police force in Ferguson nor the Missouri State Highway Patrol was able to stop the race riots that got underway. The National Guard has been called in. Are federal troops next?

It might seem like an opportune time for some investigative stories about the identity of these outside agitators conducting these “coordinated” attacks on the police before more people are shot and perhaps killed.

My assumption is that law-abiding citizens are hoping for more fire power for those charged with defending them and their businesses. But they don’t seem to have access to the media megaphone.

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  • disqus_smWiOrvPtd

    Governor Jay Nixon needs to go one step further and call the communists who came down from Chicago what they are: subversives! America needs to stand up and apply the 14th Amendment Sec 4b to all subversive groups in America. America can start with the Dept of Education and the Universities.

  • disqus_smWiOrvPtd

    The hegelian-dialectic strategy that promotes immorality obviously knows its going to create a police state. The left is posturing. The author of Community Oriented Policing said that crime was the goal to get the COPs program into the community.

    Government must promote immorality or government cannot grow.

  • Kathy Gornik

    As a law-abiding citizen, I am most definitely not for more fire power for those charged with defending me and my business. Throughout history, government power has been the biggest source of harm to ordinary people. The more we violate the principles of our Constitution, reflected, as one example, in the huge redistributive state that now exists, the more social unrest there will be. Rather, I would address the more fundamental reasons why the great American process for peace and prosperity has been deformed. By decreasing the role of government and increasing the size and scope of civil society, we greatly increase the likelihood of peace and tolerance and harmonious trade among disparate people.

  • miguel prado

    Is Ferguson the opening act? Will our local terrorists (Ayers et co.) ally themselves with terrorists that have infiltrated across our Southern border? Probably, yes. Strife and violent upheaval is an old leftist tactic dating from the French Revolution. What to do? Go back to God, family and country – the ideals of that “other” revolution: The American Revolution!

  • bbf

    Thank you for posting the website for Mr. Shank. It is worth taking some time to readi his excellent articles. So glad to find a real Progressive..instead of those pretend Progressives..who have remained silent as Obama increased the use of US predatory drones by the hundreds and incinerated thousands of innocent civilians in Africa and the Middle East, approved the assassination of a US citizen and his son, invited the members of the Libyian government responsible of the execution of Black Libyans and African immigrants to the White House…and spent $12 Million US dollars a day for SEVEN MONTHS for the invasion of Libya…..which was not approved by congress. I am going to see if Mr. Shank wrote anything about the recent phony humanitarian aid to the Yazidis, a sect known for it’s approval of “honor killings”…which include celebrating the stoning to death of young girls.

    Check out this video on YouTube:

  • wildcatlh

    I’ve been online for a very long time. 25 years of going online, from bulletin boards to Prodigy and AOL to the world wide web.

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve read in those 25 years. Congratulations. That’s quite an achievement.

  • bbf


    Check out this video on YouTube:

    This is so you will be aware of what that young Yazidis girl went through. After the girl wad stoned to death, her body was then tied to the back of an automobile and dragged through the streets….to the cheers of the crowd. Her body was nude, and was then burned. Afterwards, she was buried with a dog as a further sign of disrespect.

    These are the Christian group that the Obama Administration claimed they had to rescue for humanitarian reasons.

  • kuhnkat

    The police are NOT the best group to be fighting terrorism. That is the job of the Guard!!! You are also ignoring whether the police administrators are hamstringing their men with PC ROEs.

    I would also mention that this is the same type of activity that culminated in Kent State. The Police should NOT be militarized. The guard should be better trained for this.

  • disqus_smWiOrvPtd


  • chris9465

    when police dress for war….they go to war….against citizens

    when the state grants constitutional authority over people to the family pet thats tyranny anyway you spin it……

    The main issue between law enforcement and minority communities is the drug war…..

    End the drug war….

  • bratfalean

    Governor Jay Nixon think logically!!

  • Commies always lie about the police. Remember in the 60s they were complaining about “police riots” like the SDS terrorists who attacked the Chicago Demoncrat Convention. Any lie about the police is justified by the radical left. Time to put down this insurrection by blacks and communists in Ferguson.

  • American Kulak

    Throwing of Molotov cocktails = terrorism? Apparently Cliff didn’t think so last Ukraine. Because presumably all these Berkut riot cops were Commies, right Cliff?

    You really are a moron Cliff. You must be so proud of this cop too:

  • susan

    “i should have called to verify the…..”i did draw some conclusions i shouldnt have”. no kidding. journalism 101.

  • susan

    well, if you’re for freedom for ukraine, you dont view them as terrorists. they are fighting a war for their homeland. im sure the russians would like you calling them terrorists. terrorists do nothing but destroy. the ferguson looters are a type of terrorist because they are trying to destroy the peace, serenity, law,order & the peoples right to live & work there without fear. they did nothing but destroy.