Chief must work to re-establish trust

John Camper probably didn’t anticipate anything like the past week when he signed on as Grand Junction’s interim police chief in August.

Camper was dealing with the fallout from one internal investigation of a Grand Junction police officer — fallout that included a highly critical editorial from this newspaper — when an even bigger allegation of police misconduct hit.

We can’t fault Camper for his handling of the latest incident. He acted swiftly to fire Officer Glenn Coyne following his arrest Thursday on suspicion of sexual assault. And he released information about the arrest as quickly as he could, once the arrest had occurred.

While we wish more information was available about the circumstances leading to Coyne’s arrest, the sealing of the arrest affidavit was a judge’s decision, not Camper’s. And, we understand there may be legitimate law-enforcement reasons for temporarily sealing an arrest affidavit.

What we do know, from information supplied by Camper, is that Coyne is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her home early Tuesday morning. The woman had called police for assistance on a family matter Sunday, Camper said, and Coyne was one of the officers who responded. The woman contacted Coyne Monday for additional assistance. He returned to her home after he got off work early Tuesday morning, and that’s when the alleged assault reportedly occurred.

Coyne was also the subject of an internal investigation for an off-duty incident that occurred in December 2008, and Camper said he has re-opened that investigation in the wake of the latest incident.

Our beef with the interim chief stemmed from his decision not to release documents from the internal investigation of another former police officer, Courtney Crooks. He resigned Sept. 16 after he was charged with misdemeanor physical harassment for an incident involving his wife.

We still disagree with Camper and the decision he made with City Attorney John Shaver regarding the Crooks case. And we believe that before very long, the public should be allowed to see documents related to the internal investigation of Coynes that resulted from the December 2008 incident. However, Camper makes a logical argument for taking another look at that investigation in light of Coyne’s arrest last week.

Was that investigation as thorough as it should have been? Was there anything in Coyne’s behavior then that might have foreshadowed what allegedly occurred last week? We hope Camper will answer those questions and provide the public with documents supporting his conclusions before much more time has elapsed.

For now, however, we appreciate Camper’s rapid and appropriate response to Coyne’s arrest. Equally important is his understanding that the two recent incidents involving Grand Junction police officers seriously threaten the generally high esteem that most members of this community have for the police department.

Camper inherited the problems he is dealing with right now. Still, he must act quickly and decisively to ensure the public that these two officers — if the allegations against them prove true — were rogues, not typical of most officers in the department. And that means releasing as much information as possible as soon as possible.


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