The FBI defines the new term, “…“swatting,” and it involves calling 911 and faking an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement—usually a SWAT team.” The prank caller tells the dispatcher that there are hostages, bomb threats or reports of weapons fired in the celebrity home. The LA Times reports the media has fueled copycat pranks to the point where the LAPD has decided to stop publishing press releases about the incidences. “For now on, news outlets must make a formal public records act request for information about such incidents.”
In an interview with Mike Spoon, Course Director of Producing at Full Sail University, states he agrees that the media reports the news stories about celebrity swatting encourages more perpetrators to target a celebrities, which causes valuable first respond SWAT teams to spend time and resources where they aren’t needed.
The media outlets have a right to request the information regarding any recent incidences of celebrity swatting. The LA Times reports how the government agency has up to 10 business days to respond to the request. However, the agency can deny the request or black out information that is exempt due to the Privacy Act. The agency also has the responsibility of determining if the release of the information requested will hinder the open investigation.
The LA Times states that Cmdr. Andrew Smith, in charge of the LAPD Media Relations Section, states that the reason for withholding the information from immediate release is to protect the privacy of the victims and refrain from encouraging more incidences. Spoon states, “It is in the best interest of the public not have the media publicize these events because it causes the public to create copycats, wastes very valuable, limited city resources, and the first responder time.”
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows anyone to submit requests from the federal government information. The requests must be sent into a federal agency such as the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). According to FOIA.gov, the first step is to determine which agency will have the records the media outlet is requesting. There are online forms provided along with the contact information of who to send the request to.
The fact that information of new incidences is being kept from the news begs the question if the celebrity’s names should have been released in the first place. Because celebrities are considered public figures, the press is allowed to publish information about them without prior consent. However, it is harmful to the community by reporting the information in the media. Spoon agrees that the FOIA exemption should protect celebrity’s private information from being reported in the news. “We should us the freedom of privacy when it is in the public good, and saves resources form be waster on frivolous actions and events.”