After nearly eight months, it's finally over.

It was a strange news story that the Sentinel followed from Day 1.

The story was out of the ordinary for the Sentinel because a great deal of the news value came from a lack of cooperation from the Palisade Police Department that refused to release a report to the public.

The story we are referring to involves Grand Junction Police Department Cmdr. David Arcady.

While driving to work on Jan. 17, Arcady hit a teenage girl while she was crossing a Palisade street in a pedestrian crosswalk.

Last week, Arcady was found not guilty of two traffic offenses by the Palisade Municipal Court. The judge cited factors such as the dark of night, poor lighting conditions and the victim wearing dark clothing for her not-guilty decision.

From a journalistic view, when a government agency refuses to release information to the public, it's our duty to pursue the story and find out what was behind that decision.

The Sentinel rarely covers municipal cases but because the Palisade Police Department refused to open the records from the case, we felt obligated to follow it throughout.

The decision by Palisade Police came through the recommendation of town attorney Angela Roff. Palisade Police Chief Deb Funston said releasing the report would have been "contrary to public interest, because it is such a high-profile case and because obviously the Grand Junction Police Department is well-known."

We've said on several occasions that the decision made no sense.

That decision even forced the Grand Junction Police Department to take action to show the public it was not hiding anything or improperly protecting its officer in any way. The department conducted its own internal affairs investigation of the accident and made a summary of those results available to the Sentinel.

It's simple — transparency eliminates mystery.

The circumstances of this incident — an injury accident involving law enforcement — definitely warranted the Sentinel's coverage of the story.

However, it is highly unlikely that we would have pursued this story the same way if the Palisade Police Department had been transparent about its investigation from the beginning.

The Sentinel needed to make sure that this traffic case was being handled just like any other case that didn't involve a police officer.

Grand Junction Police Chief Doug Shoemaker said its investigation report was released to quash the notion that there is a "blue wall of silence" among valley law enforcement agencies.

He should be commended for underscoring that this was another example of why agencies need to be transparent in their dealings.

The public needs to have trust in the agencies it pays to govern and police our community, and that trust absolutely starts with transparency.

It was an awkward endeavor for a newspaper to follow a municipal traffic case with such tenacity, but the Palisade Police Department forced our hand.

A municipal case that would have normally warranted little more than a mention turned into something much more because of the Palisade Police Department's deliberate attempt to draw the shades on the public.

If there is a similar situation in the future – and there certainly will be – we hope public officials everywhere whose salaries are paid by taxpayers will not thwart the taxpayers' right to know what they are doing on our dime.

Recommended for you