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Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.

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In custody death investigation

Read the release here.

This is a tragedy for all parties involved.  The Fredericksburg Police Department extends its sympathies to the family of Mr. Berryman.

I want to clarify a few points in response to inquiries received regarding this incident.  Although multiple officers responded to the scene, only one officer physically engaged with Mr. Berryman during the attempt to take him into custody.   Also, the arresting officer does not carry a Taser, nor were any lethal or non-lethal weapons deployed in the course of the struggle.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/citypolice/2010/12/17/in-custody-death-investigation/

  • tamatam

    Maybe the Free lance star should have written the article with a little more compassion Norman was not all bad in matter of fact he had a very giant heart just some ruff times…

  • stacey

    I knew Norman from Elementary school till High School. He was a very fine young man then, and I am sure he was as a grown man as well. We all make mistakes, I am very very sorry this one cost him his life. FLS’ caption on the article “Unruly Prisioner” does not discribe Norman at all. Some sympathy should go into every article when someone dies, no matter what the story is! He was not a news story for you to sell! His friends and family are in my thoughts and prayers. Norman will be missed greatly.

  • http://www.imsurroundedbyidiots.com/ Timothy Watson

    Out of curiosity, and with no offense intended to Ms. Bledsoe, but how does The Free Lance-Star intend to maintain journalistic independence while having an employee of the Fredericksburg Police Department post stories about crime in Fredericksburg?

    Doesn’t her employment by the police department pose a conflict of interest about the content that she is writing to the paper?

    Is she writing and posting these stories while she is being paid by the city of Fredericksburg? This is a relevant question for the taxpayers of the city.

    Hypothetically, if a member of the Fredericksburg Police Department or any employee hired by the city is charged with a crime, how can Ms. Bledsoe post anything about their arrest or administrative status without violating that employee’s personnel privacy rights?

    As in this case, how can she write objectively about this when the city could possibly face a civil lawsuit regarding the arrestee’s death?

  • TJ

    I two knew Norman from Elementary to High School and strongly agree with Stacey! Very well put! He had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone! FLS lost a lot of respect as far as I’m concerned, for writing such a cold story!

  • Natatia Bledsoe

    Mr. Watson,
    I have been publishing the crime reports and press releases on the Police Department website for over three years, and I am still doing so. By posting those reports on this blog, I am simply using a different forum to publish what is essentially the same content. The postings themselves are merely redundant publications of writings that I produce already as part of my daily responsibilities.

    The only difference so far is that this forum also lends itself to personal commentary, similar to me answering a question which may be posed to me during a taped interview with news media.

    My time devoted to this forum accomplishes a goal which is part of my job description: to disseminate public information and to establish a positive line of communication with the community. Almost every department has someone whose job includes “public relations”; since I am not posting about my family or my upcoming plans for the holidays, the information shared here is pertinent and relevant to my position.

    If a member of my department is charged with a crime, I would publish their arrest under the same guidelines I follow when I publish any other information which is publicly accessible by law. Protected information as described by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act would not be disclosed.

    I will allow these and subsequent postings to provide evidence of my objectivity. My information comes directly from written police reports, which are submitted by officers who are trained to collect and record evidence and to take statements from witnesses, victims, and suspects. I provide a synopsis of those events.

  • Ben Flippo

    I second the thought that Ms. Bledsoe’s participation on an FLS blog is incredibly troublesome, not for her, but for the FLS.

    Can the person in charge over there explain the reasoning for having an employee of the FPD as a blogger on a independent news website?

    I am sorry, but this is not ethical. Do you have some special agreement with the FLS here? Are you going to do this for other media?

  • Brian

    Hi Ben,

    Good questions. In fact, we asked them among ourselves before launching this blog.

    Crime reports are a popular feature on fredericksburg.com. Natatia Bledsoe builds those crime reports for Fredericksburg, so we gave her a direct way to post them here – as she already does on the police department Web site.

    She’ll also post such items as public safety notes and other notes she believes are important.

    The blog is clearly identified as that of Natatia Bledsoe, public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.

    We’re not labeling it as fredericksburg.com- or Free Lance-Star-produced content.

    We are not alone in doing this. The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper Web site, for instance, also offers local police a blog. (http://blogs.ajc.com/view-from-cop/)

    We do not pay Natatia Bledsoe, and the Fredericksburg Police Department gets no favors in exchange for this blog.

    Further, we will continue to work independently regardless of anything related to this blog – for instance, when we have a story that further develops an initial report from police, we promote that over the prelimary report.

    If there are facts that do not put police in a positive light, we will – as always – publish those regardless of this blog.

    This relationship in no way would or ever will keep us from reporting independently on or investigating any local law enforcement agency. And it won’t affect how our reporters cover the news.

    I’m sorry we didn’t address this here earlier with the launch of the blog.

    Sincerely,
    -Brian Baer, fredericksburg.com

  • Ben Flippo

    So this is a crime report from some log?

    And you remove comments, which also removes the only way to make any kind of personal contact to Ms. Bledsoe related to her police logs that are filed every day on the department’s website?

    Something stinks about this. I don’t see the benefit to me when I’ve always gone to the police website to view the logs. You’re saying you are proving me a service, and staying impartial, by letting her repost the logs here? Why not have the reports in the city blog?

    And them remove the only way to interact with the police employee? Why?

    I will be writing a letter to the editor about this because I think this is a decision that was made in haste and in error. It’s not ethical for a newspaper to do something like this, and I don’t care if it is done elsewhere.

    This post is not a police log. It is a police department official responding to a very serious story that involved one of the city police officers possibly killing someone.

    Who is calling the shots there now?

  • intheknow

    I love the irony.

    Rarely does a story about a significant crime get published by the FLS when some armchair media critic or half-baked conspiracy theorist berates the FLS for failing to obtain some meaningful detail or uncover the conspiracy. Now the FLS provides the public with a direct link to a primary source of information, and that too becomes an object of their criticism.

    Those with at least an ounce of functioning gray matter between their ears who seek an objective perspective, know that one ought not rely upon any single source of information. Every source is subjective to some degree; the FLS has their spin and the Police Department has theirs. This blog speaks to the willingness of the FLS to be more objective and the Police Department to be more transparent. I say well done to both.

    As for you assertions Benny, it isn’t the job of the FLS to make the Police Department spokesperson accessible to the public. That is the function of the Police Department, and it seems Ms. Bledsoe is about as directly accessible to the public as anyone can be. You can call her office, go in person, write a letter, text her through a tip line, email her through the Police Department website, or send her a message on the Police Department Facebook page. I’m actually surprised she doesn’t receive smoke signals.

    If you dust off the old reading comprehension skills, you’ll see that Ms. Bledsoe was not “responding” to anything. She was providing some greater detail about the event than was provided in the original article. You know, the kind detail folks like you say has been lacking in FLS coverage. She then provided more detail about the purpose of her blog. She was not responding to the event involving the death of the gentleman on Palmer St.

    If your expectation is that she will somehow engage members of the public in an online debate about an incident under investigation, you know even less about the function of a public information officer than the function of the media, criminal investigations, what happened on Palmer St, or any of the other topics sullied by your uninformed opinion and baseless speculation.

    Perhaps the Police Department did not opt to have the daily crime log open to public commentary because when it comes to investigating crimes, they really don’t need your advice. After all, they don’t come to your job and tell you how to make the fries. In other words, the function of the crime log is to inform you of incidents that occurred, not for you to inform the police of your opinion of those events.

    Nevertheless, the FLS has kindly afforded citizens the opportunity to express their opinions through online comments and letters to the Editor. It seems the Police Department also welcomes input from citizens through various avenues advertised on their website. So climb down from the grassy knoll, take off the tinfoil hat, and try to contribute something thoughtful to the conversation.

  • Ben Flippo

    First off, I am using my real name, hiding behind no object or thing.

    Secondly, I have never criticized the FLS before and I have never written on the FLS comments before, as stated earlier..

    This just really bothered me. It has nothing to do with “being open” or being “accessible” or being “transparent”

    That is phony, and you MUST be an employee of the PD or a friend of the bloggers.

    My point is well made: A newspaper that hosts a police employee on a blog, removes the comments section, and is basically posting logs that have for years gone on the PD website where they belong, is walking on thin ice.

    We have this title-less Brian Baere of “fredericksburg.com saying the FLS gave this a lot of thought and decided to go with it because this provide a service. What service is that? What is this providing that cannot get elsewhere?

    Why not have Stafford, Spotsyvania, Culpeper, etc on here? Why the city only?

    I’ve never complained about the FLS stories lacking detail and being fair. In fact, I think the paper does a decent job considering I have heard 20 percent of its newsroom is laid off or left with no replacement.

    This just smells of something bad, something my local paper shouldn’t do. Leave it to a title-less guy to support this move. Is this Baer guy even paid or is he a free volunteer for the FLS? I guess I am confused with how it works over there.

    Mr. Bear, who are you?

  • Natatia Bledsoe

    Mr. Flippo,
    I decide which blog posts of mine are allowed comments. That decision is based primarily on time management, as I must moderate the comments as they are submitted, and this particular assignment is one of many for which I am responsible. Neither the newspaper nor fredericksburg.com removes the comments section from my posts, as I act as the administrator of this blog.

    This blog is a pilot project which will be evaluated for its value to the Police Department and to the public. Based on the number of views to the posts, so far it appears to be well received. Your comments will be taken into consideration.

    Natatia Bledsoe

  • Brian

    Hi Ben,
    You can call me Brian if you want.
    I’m the online managing editor for The Free Lance-Star and the editor of fredericksburg.com.
    Fortunately, I do get paid.
    I’m sorry I left off my title on the earlier post and apologize for any confusion that caused.
    In addition, if you’d like, you are always welcome to call me directly at 540/368-5053. I’d be happy to listen to your concerns.
    Sincerely,
    Brian Baer, online managing editor for The Free Lance-Star (a paid position)

  • intheknow

    Benny, the problem with backpedaling is that you tend to trip over what you’ve already said.

    On one hand you claim by removing the comments feature ” removes the only way to make any kind of personal contact to Ms. Bledsoe related to her police logs”, Yet at the same time you say it is not about accessibility.

    Do some homework and you will find most local papers have some version of a “police blotter” which summarizes daily criminal events. Even the term “police blotter” comes from the days when a reporter would actually go to the police station and read the daily entries made in the station log book. The reporter would glean items of interest from the log and follow-up on serious crimes. That is precisely what happens today, it is just done electronically.

    As you can see from the daily crime logs, the FLS does not publish every item. They publish items they will be of interest to their general readership. So a minor theft from a parked vehicle may not be of interest to their general readership, but it may surely be of interest to someone who lives on the street where it happened. Thus the value of the FLS posting the entire crime log for their readers. In effect, the FLS is placing the police blotter directly in the hands of their readers. How’s that for customer service?

    Reporters also use the crime log as a starting point to follow a story. If you are under the impression that the FLS has an army of reporters in the field looking for crimes stories, you are quite mistaken. Like any other media outlet, the FLS almost always first learns about a crime because the police told them about it, not because they found out about it first and then asked the police. It is sort of like the local weather report. The FLS doesn’t have a team of meteorologists and weather satellites, they get the weather report from NOAA.

    As we quite often see, a reporter or an editor may summarize an event and omit details they believe are not critical to the story. This blog gives the Police Department the opportunity to share more detail about the event. For example, the fact that the officer in the Palmer St. incident did not deploy a tazer, baton or pepper spray. Had this blog not existed, that question would be lingering in the mind of the readers.

    Or take today’s blog for example. The police thought they had arrested the right guy at first, but then learned they had not. No cover-up, no conspiracy, just the facts. Had this blog not existed and if the Police Department were not interested in transparency, the public may have never known about that.

    If the Police Department were interested in cover-ups and conspiracies, the last thing they would do is create a venue that provides people with more information. If the FLS were not interested in providing their readers with the broadest possible perspective, they would not publish op-eds, encourage letters to the Editor, or invite Ms. Bledsoe to contribute her blog.

    As for why the other local agencies do not have a blog, that is a very good question. I can only speculate, but the Fredericksburg PD seems to be a leader in innovative policing. It is the only nationally accredited law enforcement agency in the region, it was the first agency in the country to implement AutoChalk, it was the first to implement technology like tip texting, online reporting and e-ticketing. It was the first agency in the region to establish neighborhood community policing, it was the first local agency on Facebook, it is the only agency that offers regular classes for nightclub staff and merchants, it is one of the few to establish a citizen’s police academy, and the list goes on. Now it is the first to establish a blog with the FLS.

    I’m not sure just what axe it is you have to grind, but it is clear you’ll get no edge grinding it on this topic. Perhaps you might create more sparks by criticizing local agencies for the services they are not providing, as opposed to the services they are providing.

  • Ben Flippo

    in the know, I am not going to belabor over this, but you are taking my comments completely out of context.

    Are you or have you ever been a journalist? If no, then you shouldn’t be speaking for the profession.

    Doing this kind of reporting is the job of a reporter, not a city employee of the police department. Period.

    I appreciate Brian’s and Ms Bledsoe’s responses. But I feel strongly about this for some reason, and I haven’t heard anything, especially from you, that makes me feel any better about my local paper going this low in the depths of ethical reporting.

    If she wants a blog, then do it on the PD website.

    Would Ms. Bledsoe provide a blog to other media if contacted or even a local blogger who covers news, such as Timothy Watson? If not, why?

    Is this the only media Ms Bledsoe plans to do this pilot program with? If so, why?

    I don’t care how many police reporters the FLS, has. The ones they do have ought to be paid well enough to do the job right. Apparently, the FLS doesn’t mind damaging its reputation. I don’t really either.

    Brian, sorry. If this were my company, you’d be backtracking real fast on this approval or you’d be in the unemployment line. You crossed the line here, and I can look for my news elsewhere.

    But I do appreciate your professional replies.

    Instead of contacting you, Brian, who is your direct boss? I rather contact him and hear what his opinion is. But I may call you later to chat.

    -Ben

  • Natatia Bledsoe

    Mr. Flippo,

    I attempted to contact you directly, but the email you provided returned as invalid. So I will share my response:

    The City website does not host a blog format, otherwise I would be happy to post my blog on that venue. I do not have the capability on the website’s Daily Crime Report page to entertain comments from the public, although many people email me directly or call with follow-up questions, which I am happy to field. Those comments/questions are not made public, nor should they be, as the writer/caller expects a level of privacy to the conversation when it is posed in that manner.

    A blog, however, by its nature and construction is meant to be a public forum. Shortly before Thanksgiving I was approached by members of the editorial staff at FLS about becoming one of their bloggers. After much internal discussion in my department, and back-and-forth discussion with FLS, we decided to try the project on a trial basis. Already, my blog receives a surprising amount of traffic, and the PD has received valuable tips on recent investigations because of the wide dissemination of the information.

    If I were approached by another media outlet to do the same, I would first examine the need (FLS does corner the local market on news) and weigh that need against the benefit to the Police Department and to the City. My guess is that FLS would be thrilled if the county agencies jumped on board with blogs of their own.

    I’m sorry you’re not comfortable with it. Admittedly my own comfort level has been stretched as well, as the format encourages an exposure that is not necessarily welcome to me. Before the blog publication, I at least enjoyed some measure of protection from public criticism, which has obviously been sacrificed.

    The Fredericksburg Police Department operates under the philosophy of transparency in its actions, and we will continue to look for ways to engage the public in our discussions on crime and the solutions to crime.

    Thanks for joining in.

    Natatia Bledsoe

  • intheknow

    Ben,

    The problem isn’t that you have an objection to the blog; the problem is you can’t articulate a rational basis for the objection. You passed judgement before having all the facts. Now, rather than reconsider your position in light of the facts, you simply remain entrenched in that position.

    Your position is clealry based upon emotion rather than reason, so in the end your argument boils down to “I just don’t like it”. That may be a good basis for selecting a particular flavor of ice cream, but it is hardly a solid foundation upon which to build an informed opinion about the relationship between a free press and an agent of the state.

    According to you, I can’t speak about the role of a reporter because I have never been a journalist, yet somehow you can speak about the role of the reporter, editor-in-chief and police spokesperson. Can we then assume you have held all three of those occupations?

    I submit the only reputation damaged here is your own.

  • Chris

    Can anyone tell us why the rescue suad was not called in as soon as the man was suspected to be on some form of drug?
    Maybe someone does not want anyone to concentrate on that. In today’s new, 1/4/11, a Stafford county deputy arrived on scene to a situation of the same caliber and the first thing he did was call a rescue squad.
    And there is no need for a blotter or ill comments being made to see that that officer does the right thing first, and that saved a life. After they took him to the hospital and made sure he was ok they found drugs on him and then formally charged him. But it was done after his health was deemed safe.

    This is Roscoe P. Coltrain, he he he Cletus. I”m coming…