The right conduct on official misconduct

There may be places where police officers act like jack-booted thugs — treating citizens with disrespect and condescension, at best. That is definitely not the case in Grand Junction.

Police in this city are, in most cases, courteous and respectful of those they serve. But the department’s reputation has suffered in the past two months from the high-profile criminal complaints against two of its former officers.

That’s why The Daily Sentinel’s Paul Shockley requested information from the police department on all internal investigations of police department personnel over the past 17 months.

Interim Police Chief John Camper provided The Daily Sentinel with a summary of those actions earlier this month. It showed that from Jan. 1, 2008, through Aug. 31, 2009, the department handled 99 citizen complaints or investigations involving its employees — including those who work at the emergency dispatch center. During that time, officers or other police employees were disciplined for confirmed misconduct in 25 cases.

Over the same 17 months, the police department and dispatch center handled 96,000 calls for service from city residents. Twenty-five disciplinary actions out of 96,000 responses to citizens is a minuscule amount — less than one response in 3,500 results in a punishable misconduct.

That’s good news. It reinforces what most residents of the city already believe — that the department’s employees can be trusted to do their jobs responsibly and respectfully. We applaud Camper for making that information public.

Still, a handful of infractions has occurred. And we continue to strongly disagree with Camper over his refusal to make public detailed information on those cases.

For instance, as information accompanying Shockley’s Sunday article showed, police command staff recommended that one officer be fired after the officer rear-ended another driver in a traffic accident, then refused to return the accident victim’s phone calls. But Camper’s summary didn’t even show whether the officer in question was indeed fired, much less the officer’s name.

Also, on five occasions during those 17 months, officers violated department rules regarding vehicular pursuit, but no names and little additional information were made public.

Citizens have a right to know which officers are involved in dangerous traffic situations, and which ones may be repeat offenders. Officers have no privacy rights while on duty — while they are conducting the public’s business and earning taxpayer dollars.

Camper should release full details of completed internal investigations, including the names of officers disciplined.


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