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Why did Yahoo post photos of Ferguson cop?


It's been a week since a Ferguson police officer, identified as Darren Wilson, allegedly shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. 

We know some details about Wilson, but Yahoo News made the curious decision Saturday to post a Facebook photo it claims is Wilson receiving a commendation from his police department. We've decided not to show that photo.  

Yahoo says it got the pictures from a Facebook page the outlet says belonged to Wilson's father. While the writer markets the story as Wilson receiving an award before the tragic shooting, it's getting a lot of attention because it's the first time a major news outlet has published a photo of the officer. 

Shaun King and hip-hop writer Karen Civil, who have a combined Twitter following of nearly 300,000, tweeted similar messages calling Yahoo's move "bold." 

It seems that Yahoo has, so far, been the only news outlet to post a photo of Wilson, and it made us wonder: Why didn't any other major news organizations post the photo? And what do we stand to gain by seeing his picture? 

Well, you might be thinking, "The officer's name is out, so what difference does it make that his picture is too?" Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters at his second press conference Friday he was considering releasing a picture of Wilson at a later time. 

But the photo doesn't tell us anything about Wilson we didn't already know. Jackson had already told reporters Wilson is a six-year veteran with no prior disciplinary record. Somewhere in all of that, reporters also learned that Wilson is 28 years old and he is white. 

The Yahoo article does, however, shed light on Wilson's family and neighborhood. Wilson's father asked for prayers on Facebook and his neighborhood has seen an increased police presence. Darren Wilson's neighbors say he apparently left his home "a couple of days ago." 

Before Wilson's name was released, a Columbia Journalism Review article explored whether Ferguson police could legally withhold the officer's name — or other information about him, for that matter. 

The article looks at a section of Missouri Sunshine Law which says the department could withhold certain information if it posed "a clear and present danger to the safety of any victim, witness, undercover officer, or other person." But the article goes on to say, for the Ferguson Police Department, "adopting some transparency will be critical in regaining credibility and creating the conditions for public accountability."

If the picture is that of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot and killed Brown, it does clear up the fact that veteran St. Louis police officer Darren R. Wilson, who is black, is not the officer in question. But we already knew that too. 

Darren R. Wilson, who is the head of the Ethical Society of Police, posted a message to the group's Facebook page clearing up the confusion, calling it a "horrific coincidence."

We did reach out to the author of the Yahoo article to get more insight on his decision to post the photo, but we didn't hear back from him by the time of publication. 

This video contains images from Getty Images.



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