In the rapacious competition for good press among government agencies, spokespeople sometimes are too effusive with praise for their own people at the expense of others involved.
That’s what happened this week following the dramatic July 23 police rescue of a despondent man threatening to jump to his death from the Verrazano Bridge.
Shortly after the rescue, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne ordered a press release issued that bestowed credit for the rescue to an Asian-American member of the PD’s elite Emergency Services Unit.
The press release breathlessly noted that the officer and the would-be jumper came from the same village in China. That conversation, the NYPD claimed, led to the rescue. The NYPD also took credit at a subsequent press availability at police headquarters.
Mentioned only in passing was the presence of Eddie Fung, an officer with the Bridge and Tunnel police.
The next day’s media coverage credited the NYPD with the rescue. The Daily News: “NYPD officer using native Cantonese language helps save life of man on Verrazano Bridge.”
But in an effort to glom the credit, the NYPD failed to note a major detail: Fung had been speaking with the jumper for four hours before the rescue.
Members of ESU were so embarrassed by Browne’s PR gaffe that they gave Fung a special plaque yesterday in a ceremony at the Verrazano Bridge.
The MTA Bridge and Tunnel police issued their own press release to set the record straight: “Bridge and Tunnel Officer Eddie N. Fung spent four hours trying to keep a despondent man from jumping off the upper level of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – and succeeded. Yet he doesn’t consider himself a hero.”
UPDATE: Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman, this afternoon disputed the contention that the NYPD did anything wrong.
“The NYPD did nothing wrong in promoting the actions of their officers,” Lisberg tells the Voice. “The NYPD and MTA Bridges and Tunnels worked closely together to safely remove this man from the bridge. The NYPD, as you’ve noted, gave credit to our Officer Fung, and we are also grateful for the actions of their officer, Yi Huang. We recognized Officer Fung at our monthly board meeting on Wednesday, and will do a more formal recognition ceremony for him in the future.”