Kootenai County Sheriff Pierce Clegg said he ordered officers to quit posing as journalists after news organizations complained of the tactic, which was used to investigate neo-Nazi skinheads and their opponents.
Two Kootenai County deputies teamed with a San Diego-area police agency in posing as a CBS News crew to film human rights protesters and neo-Nazis at a racist rally March 4 in Napa, Calif., Clegg confirmed. He refused to identify the San Diego-area agency.And anti-skinhead peace marchers at an April 15 demonstration in Seattle were videotaped by Kootenai County Sheriff's Capt. Tom Dickson, who acknowledges he told suspicious organizers of the rally he was a reporter for The Missoulian newspaper of Missoula, Mont.
A spokesman for CBS News in New York, Tom Goodman, said the network would comment on the ruse after it had a chance to speak with Clegg. He said numerous attempts to contact the sheriff Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Police in the van at Napa, whose comments are recorded on the videotape they shot, apparently had little respect for the journalists they impersonated.
"There's the (expletive) press," grumbles one officer as the police van rolls by a presumably legitimate news crew.
Mary Frances Schjonberg, city editor of The Missoulian, said she strongly urged Clegg not to allow officers to impersonate reporters.
"We can get arrested for impersonating them, and I said I hoped he could see the problems he could cause to our credibility," Schjonberg said.