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Friday, January 22, 2010

Story should be told, say Intelligencer readers

January 22, 2010

The Intelligencer's decision to publish Shawn O'Sullivan's story does not cast the city police force in a bad light, readers told the paper during an informal poll Thursday.

Belleville resident Christine Gilbey said the story did not taint her view of the force.

"I don't look at the group as a whole," she said. "It's an individual incident and you don't pass judgement until all the facts are out on the table."

The poll stemmed from Belleville police Chief Cory McMullan and members of the police services board blasting The Intell for what they called a one-sided story -- a story in which Olympic medallist Shawn O'Sullivan alleged he was beaten and Tasered while being arrested last November.

You decide

The story also included a statement received via e-mail from city police and a brief comment from Deputy Chief Paul Vandegraaf.

During Wednesday's police service board meeting, the chief said while O'Sullivan is free to give his account of the incident, the force is restricted in what it can say because the matter is before the courts.

On Thursday, The Intell asked residents for their opinions on the issue.

Gilbey said if someone in the community informs the media they were unjustly treated, the media should be allowed to inform the public.

"They're perfectly welcome to banter back too," she said, referring to the police.

Carla Robinson said the newspaper shouldn't feel pressured into killing a story solely because the police couldn't provide sufficient information to clarify what happened.

"As long as you made an attempt to get a response -- If they choose not to respond, then it's the police's fault," she said.

"This is his (O'Sullivan's) story," she added. "He had the right to tell it and you had a right to report it."

Gerry Bongard agreed, saying when news happens, the paper shouldn't have to wait for clearance from the police to inform its readers.

"If you have news and bring it to the forefront, then it will hasten the true story," he said.

He pointed out the story had already aired on Global TV Sunday, two days before the Intell's story was published.

"It's an old story that you were printing," he said. "Technically, I don't know why you have to wait. I don't think the paper actually slandered anything about the police."

He said although the story was "one-sided," it didn't have any malicious intent to attack the police.

He added it is the chief's job to fire back at the paper in the defence of her officers.

"She's doing her job," he said. "She's protecting her officers."

Anil Vadhera agreed, saying it is natural the chief would speak out against the story.

But, he said, the public deserves to know what is happening behind the scenes to avoid coverups.

"People should know what's going on, so neither the cops can take advantage nor the public," he said. "Everything should be fair.

"It was right to put it in front of the public."

He said as the case unfolds in front of the court, more information will be unearthed.

One man, who wouldn't give his name, said the decision to release the story appeared to be a spur of the moment editorial decision.

He said The Intell could have held the story until the paper had all the facts. He said such editorial decisions stem from the shortage of staff plaguing the paper.

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