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Along For The Ride -- On An LAPD Sting Operation

Click on over to the Los Angeles Times Web site and you'll see a picture that looks a lot like something out of a movie. That's partly because the man being handcuffed is actor Brad Renfro, and partly because, well, how often are arrests caught in progress by news cameras? In this case, the L.A. Times shot a series of photos and wrote a story about an LAPD sting operation on drug deals in downtown Los Angeles because … they were invited to.
The Los Angeles Police Department invited several reporters to cover the operation in hopes that the publicity would make people from other parts of the city think twice before purchasing drugs downtown.
The Times' story is essentially a first-person account of the whole operation, with reporters following right alongside police officers as they chased down suspects.
Officers — and reporters — chased another fleeing suspect through the shopping center. But despite the commotion, more customers were on hand ready to buy drugs.
It's definitely different, since most crime stories are typically told after the fact, and this is quite a close-up look at one as it happened (particularly the photo of balloons filled with fake heroin that officers used to entice potential buyers.) And it also raises some questions. What are the responsibilities of reporters who cover such such "ride-along" stories with undercover officers? And what are the responsibilities of the police officers that invite them? Is it a situation that's on par with reporters who are embedded with troops during wartime? What do you think?