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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Editorial - Questions from the uninvited

September 15, 2010
Lovely County [Arkansas] Citizen

Clearly Sheriff Bob Grudek is feeling a little defensive. Last Tuesday he called a press conference and notified area media -- except the Citizen.

From what we can glean from reports of the event, Sheriff Bob spent a good deal of time bashing the Citizen's reporting and defending his deputies against the paper's "allegations of excessive force."

Grudek was very upset by the recent "Boys and Their Toys" editorial that criticized the marijuana eradication air-raids in which his department participated, and by the "Deputies gone wild?" story in the Sept. 2 edition. The press conference was his attempt at damage control.

Had the Citizen been notified, we would have had a few questions, but obviously that's why we weren't welcome. Much easier to control the message when the relevant questions aren't asked and you can put all the blame on lying, "politically-motivated" reporters.

One question we would have asked is, "Why aren't instances of use of force by the department documented and tracked?" Tasers and pepper sprays are considered "non-lethal force weapons" although both have resulted in injuries and deaths.

Law enforcement professional groups recommend their use be documented for statistical and procedural review and most agencies have such procedures in place. That our sheriff's office does not is not a reflection on the officers, but on management.

We also would have asked "Why did you violate the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and not show us your department's Standard Operating Procedures for Tasers and pepper spray? You told us you have them. What are you hiding by not producing them, or is it they don't actually exist? And why all the stonewalling?"

One reporter wrote, "King wrote of several incidents in which he said excessive force was used." Other news outlets reported "allegations of excessive force." Did the sheriff say that or did the reporters just not read the story? There were no such statements in the article, not an allegation anywhere. What was in the story was documentation of police and sheriff department reports, and quotes from police officers, the sheriff and two of the men who were Tasered or pepper-sprayed.

The sheriff reportedly defended his deputies' actions in the three documented incidents as justified, and said, contrary to the report of the officer who brought in the diabetic man, that jailers didn't know the man was diabetic when he was Tasered several times. But they had been told and clearly endangered the life of a man who, with a blood sugar level of 14, was already near death.

The press conference also featured a film and photos showing officers wounded in the line of duty to make the point that non-compliant subjects endanger officers if not subdued with these weapons. The sheriff told reporters the weapons are a good alternative to using guns. We agree, but does that mean if the officers didn't have Tasers and pepper spray, the octogenarian sitting in his garden, the handcuffed drunk and the diabetic would have been shot?

These "non-lethal weapons" were designed to be used instead of guns, but they are still dangerous enough that they should be used judiciously and with restraint. Is CCSO using them at the first sign of non-cooperation? Without incidents being documented and tracked, we'll never know.

Grudek accuses "a select few who have the benefit and availability of space in our local media outlets," of "misreporting" and injecting "personal opinion."

It's easy to call someone a liar, but it holds more water when you specify what lies were told. We stand by every word in the Taser/pepper spray story; it's all well-documented. So our next question might have been, "What, specifically, in the story was inaccurate?" Think we would have stumped them on that one.

They got us on the "personal opinions" part, though. "Boys and Their Toys" was chock full of them, but an editorial is all about opinion. You may not like the opinion, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be expressed. And the fact is, that editorial reflected the views of many of the sheriff's constituents.

Most cops act professionally, but there are bullies and above-the-law cops in all departments. Better if they had a boss interested in weeding them out rather than giving blind, unconditional support.

If there are no bad apples in CCSO, congratulations; it's probably the cleanest police force on the planet.

1 comment:

Excited-Delirium blog said...

The Blue Brotherhood of Silence is probably in the Top 10 of the Most Evil Things in North America. It does no good, much harm, and tends to destroy the foundations of civil society.

And ironically, the Law Enforcement Community is silent on the problem.