Police comments causes chaos
By Bill Beene Of the St. Louis American
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 5:23 PM CDT
DJ Kaos and DJ Sylli Asz lived up to their names last Wednesday morning when they devoted part of their show on 100.3 The Beat (KATZ-FM) to methods of combating police officers and even suggested taking an officer's radio so he couldn't call for a backup.
This apparent attempt at humor, coming in the wake of the murder of a police officer in Kirkwood, inspired a firestorm of protest from local cops and some community members and garnered national media attention.
At press time the two deejays, who usually man the "Kaos Morning Show" from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, were still suspended without pay by the station, which is owned by Clear Channel.
Clear Channel Market Manager Lee Clear returned a call to the American on Tuesday, but was unable to comment on the fate of the deejays per a command from corporate headquarters.
The gag order, which also extended to the two jocks, came about a week after an initial release from Clear extending his "sincere apologies for the comments made on the ‘Kaos Morning Show.'"
The release continued, "The comments were entirely inappropriate, and we have reprimanded and suspended the announcers. KATZ-FM takes pride in supporting and assisting local law enforcement whenever possible. Just last week we used our stations in asking the public to step forward with information which eventually led to the arrest of the suspect in the killing of Sgt. McEntee," the officer slain in Kirkwood.
Many police officers and their supporters lambasted the two morning deejays on the St. Louis Area Police Message Board, calling their reprimand a wrist slap - an ironic echo of typical community complaints about the punishments issued to police officers for misconduct on duty. Some of the posts on the board were virulently racist.
In an effort to get the jocks fired, many on the message board threatened to call on the station's sponsors and advertisers to discontinue their relationships with the station. They listed the names, phone numbers and email addresses of some advertisers as well as of Clear Channel's corporate offices.
Eileen Solomon, associate professor of broadcast journalism at Webster Univerity, said that the comments were inappropriate and ill-chosen, though she admitted that she only knew of the deejays' comments through other media reports. The same is true of many others angered by rumors of the show - including, no doubt, many of the police officers raising the protest.
"It seems pretty mild," Solomon said of the reprimand. "It was foolish, and they stepped into dangerous waters in the name of humor."
"Radio management needs to take a lot more care when it hires people to go on the air because in reality the buck stops with management," said Frank Absher, St. Louis radio historian and journalism instructor at Saint Louis University.
"Irresponsible people shouldn't be given an opportunity to be in a position of influence."
Absher noted similar situations in St. Louis radio, most famously when shock jocks Steve and D.C. were fired by WKBQ (104.1 FM) for using the N-word to describe their feelings about a caller.
Some black residents, however, understood at least the basis for the remarks made by the deejays.
"Black people feel a certain way about the police because of what they've seen in the news media or what happened to someone close to them or themselves," said local barber Eric Palmer.
The often adversarial and sometimes hostile relationship between police and the African-American community prompted 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy to introduce a Citizens Review Board Bill because many local blacks don't trusts the police to justly police themselves.
Some regular listeners to the "Kaos Morning Show" thought it was unfair that the jocks were singled out for one incident, especially when the deejays also have mentioned the police in a positive light.
"They were just on the air Monday (two days before the incident) praising police officers for doing their jobs," said Rick Nance, president and CEO of Lexfae Cleaning.
"They were just joking around, as usual. The other day they ranked police departments by the number of stops they made, and because of those numbers, they said, the police were doing their jobs."