December 20, 2010
W. BRICE MCVICAR, THE INTELLIGENCER
The Intelligencer has cast the city force in a bad light by reporting only one side of a story, says Belleville's police chief and police services board members.
A number of board members took time during Wednesday's police services board meeting to question an article in Tuesday's Intell in which Olympic medallist Shawn O'Sullivan alleged he was beaten and Tasered by officers while being arrested last November.
The story included O'Sullivan's version of his arrest, a statement received via e-mail from city police and a brief comment from Deputy Chief Paul Vandegraaf.
McMullan said because the matter is before the courts, the force is restricted in what it can say. O'Sullivan does not have the same restrictions, she added.
"I can and will say that the victim's and police version of the events is substantially different from Mr. O'Sullivan's," the chief said.
Reading from a report, McMullan added, "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."
Marg Wagner, vice-chairwoman of the board, said she has complete confidence in the city's police service and its officers.
"Unfortunately, I believe that this has had a detrimental impact," she said of the story.
Board member Allan Vanclief also criticized the newspaper, saying The Intelligencer should have waited before reporting the story.
"Let's get the facts right before we put information in the paper," he said.
Frank Chapman said it is disappointing to see the police service "challenged" in the media. He described the story as a disservice to the community.
"The fundamental concern is, when we challenge a service to the community like the police service, what we are, in fact, doing is undermining our own community," Chapman said. "I worry that this is not going to be an isolated incident but it will become another front page response by somebody for purposes other than the welfare of the community."
McMullan said she too believes the story could be detrimental to the community.
"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," the chief said. "There's individuals who are going to read the front page of The Intelligencer and take that as fact as to what happened."
Mayor Neil Ellis, however, pointed out it was the Global Television program 16:9 that first aired a segment with O'Sullivan making the claim.
"I think if you read between the lines it's up for the educated person to decide," Ellis added.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
December 20, 2010