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Thursday, January 21, 2010

EDITORIAL: Police political two-step

January 21, 2010
The Intelligencer

Belleville Police Chief Cory McMullan seems to be mastering the political two-step of blaming the media quite adeptly.

Her most recent performance took place Wednesday at the police services board meeting in response to The Intelligencer's Tuesday story documenting Olympic medallist Shawn O'Sullivan's claims he had been beaten and Tasered by Belleville police officers.

In her report to the board, McMullan started by saying "Freedom of Information legislation and the fact that this case is currently before the courts really restricts the Police Service from releasing further information."

That, however, didn't stop her from continuing to comment.

"The Belleville Intelligencer printed their story without the benefit of following the Justice process where they would have been provided the benefit of hearing this case, the details of the investigation with testimony under oath. Covering the case in court would have allowed the Belleville Intelligencer access to all accounts of the incident.

"The impact of this story, in the manner which it was covered, has had on the victim, the Justice system (including admissibility of statements), the Police Service and the community at large is unknown."

She later says, "I guess my concern with the coverage issue is you can walk in to the Belleville Intelligencer and you can provide a story without receiving information -- whether it's due to restrictions or not further investigation being completed -- you're presenting one side of the story. There's individuals who are going to read the front page of The Intelligencer and take that as fact as to what happened."

Of course, what the chief neglects to mention is that it took her force seven weeks to let the public know that O'Sullivan had been arrested. Why? It is inconceivable they didn't know who he was. So why no release about his arrest? To protect his privacy? Seems ludicrous to us but who knows.

Further, in light of numerous national and local stories about use of Tasers, why did the police not see fit to let the public know their officers had used them?

The fact is the force, instead of taking the initiative to inform the public what was going on, chose to play duck and cover, then slammed the media for finding their hiding place.

And the chief -- who has been down this road at least twice already in the short time she has been in charge here -- appears to be taking the approach of trying to hide anything that might make her department look bad, then fire at the media when we find out.

Maybe the chief should spend more time looking behind her own Big Blue Wall and less time Tasering the messenger.

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