Criminal Courtesy

Last week, a deputy sheriff in Linn County was given citations for leaving the scene of an accident and failing to stop within the assured clear distance.  He wasn’t driving a patrol car; he was off duty at the time and was driving his Ford pickup truck.

Deputy James Crawford allegedly rear-ended a motorcycle at an intersection.  No one was hurt, but Crawford was gone when Marion police arrived at the scene.  Crawford is on paid administrative leave pending an “internal investigation”.  According to news accounts, the incident occurred at 6:45 p.m.  However, Crawford waited until later that evening to bring himself in to the Marion City police and face the consequences.

This suspicious behavior leaves some unanswered questions.  A law enforcement officer knows that leaving the scene of an accident is a crime.  It’s a simple misdemeanor, but it’s still a crime.  Was the deputy intoxicated?  What other reason could explain this odd conduct?

But what is stranger is the reaction of the Marion Chief of Police, Harry Daugherty.  Daugherty refused to comment because he said it would “taint Sheriff Brian Gardner’s internal investigation, because only a few people know the truth.”  Huh?  Sheriff Gardner is acting suspicious himself.  He said that it’s an “ongoing personnel matter”.  No, he’s incorrect.  It’s a criminal matter and should be treated as such.  Especially since Daugherty admitted that there is “some professional courtesy going on,” and that most of this “stuff would (normally) be released, but when it’s internal, it gets a little sticky.”  Really?

Fawkes-Lee & Ryan support civilian review boards (a.k.a. police review boards and a few other monikers).  When law enforcement officers act like this they don’t provide a lot of good argument for opposing review boards.  This is downright blatant.

Perhaps the time has come to make an exception to the exceptions in the public records statute, Chapter 22.  When a criminal matter (or potential criminal matter) and a personnel matter clash, the public should have the information available.  How can citizens take public safety seriously when a wink and nod supersedes the ethical behavior of those we rely upon to keep dangerous people off the roads?

© Copyright 2011. Fawkes-Lee & Ryan

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