Thursday, June 28, 2007

CSI Berlin

Today! Detective Ingale investigates the violent death of a cat...

Was it murder? An accident? Post-adolescent male spontaneity in Police uniform? Or was it sympathy with a dying creature that would have suffered even more if one tried to go by the rules?

After talking to the press officer I'm still clueless. Apparently, the scenario was similar to the latter one above. I was told that Police officers kill animals all the time when they're "in distress", as he put it. He meant the animals, of course!

But I should be fair and tell the whole story as objectively as I can:
something flies past someone's window. This someone finds a still live cat and lets it back into the house. Not knowing whose cat it is, he calls the police to find exactly that out and heads off to an appointment. When he comes back home, he inquires about the cat and is told that the police shot it in the courtyard.

This someone tells a friend about this rather odd story, knowing that his friend is working with a TV station called PET.TV. The friend then conducts inquiries by himself and thus becomes the unfortunate person who has to pass on the sad news to the cat owner.

Worse still, he tells his superiors at work and thus I enter the picture. So off I go to the Police station, a little nervous but well prepared with a copy of the animal rights act, excerpts of the police regulations and wise words from all my colleagues.

After an odyssee of different bus and train rides I finally get there and am immediately referred to the press office located in the headquarters building, right next to Tempelhof airport . When I get there at six p.m., some special unit guy is in the middle of trying to convince the heavyset lady at the reception desk to give him some key or other so he can set up a command centre. I'm waved through and climb the stairs.

No polite small talk, straight down to business while still standing. The press officer seems nervous but it could also just be annoyance at having to deal with some woman from the press, who's going to spoil the early return home.

He explains the scenario and brushes all my questions aside with surprised smiles, reassuring nods and soothing talk: "It's quite normal" he tells me when I ask him if it's not an unusual case to shoot an animal in the middle of a residential area, when there are certain regulations as to how to deal with dangerous or wounded animals and also about the use of firearms in public unless urgently necessary.

Detective Ingale asks all the right questions, maybe not as determined as some of my colleagues would have but I'm happy. After reporting all that to my superior and admitting to some doubts as to the media potential of the story, she claims: "This is a story! I tell you!"

I've still got a lot to learn! Lesson number one: even the police will lie when they make mistakes. Lesson number two: even if they don't lie, as a journalist you're better off not believing them anyway. Otherwise you might be found out to be too gullible for the business...

So long i