The Palisade Police Department has done Dave Arcady no favors by withholding the accident report that ostensibly details the conditions under which he struck a young pedestrian on Jan. 17.
Had the Palisade Police Department released the report in a timely fashion — as it said it would — Arcady wouldn't have seen his name splashed across newspaper articles as often as he has.
Instead, PPD's handling of the situation has forced the Grand Junction Police Department to take the unusual step of going public with an internal affairs investigation of the accident. Arcady is a GJPD commander who was driving to work after starting his on-call shift when he struck Nicole Bro in a pedestrian crosswalk around 6:30 a.m.
The Sentinel's Katie Langford went into great detail about the findings of the 250-page internal affairs report, which are outlined in an 11-page summary available online through the Sentinel's website.
We'll dispense with a rehash of the accident itself. Arcady is contesting a citation he received for violating a pedestrian's right to be in a crosswalk. The GJPD's investigation concluded that Arcady did not violate any city or department policies. It also notes that Arcady was cited by Palisade police for the accident before Palisade's investigation was complete — an issue certain to arise at trial.
At the moment, we're more interested in the fallout of Palisade's response to the accident. Stonewalling the release of the accident report has touched off a flurry of negative consequences that could easily have been avoided.
For starters, the internal probe reveals some unusual practices by Palisade police that the GJPD probably wishes it hadn't had to disclose.
Grand Junction Police Chief Doug Shoemaker has been put in the awkward position of making sure the public knows that his department isn't hiding anything — he took great umbrage at the suggestion of a "blue wall of silence" — which is hard to do without stepping on Palisade's toes.
"We have explained to them (PPD) that we have no issues with it (the PPD accident report) being released, but ultimately that is their choice," Shoemaker said. "I think we need to tell people our story, as well… My job is not to criticize or have any thoughts about what other agencies do. My only concern is with our community and our department."
In his first major test as GJPD's chief, Shoemaker passed with flying colors. As much as he wanted to defend his department, he didn't attempt to control the message via social media messaging. Instead he invited The Daily Sentinel to police HQ for a difficult conversation. He answered the hard questions. It's that kind of ventilation of the issue that fosters the public's trust in the department. Had Shoemaker attempted to break news — "Report exonerates GJPD commander of policy violations" — through his own channels, it looks too much like the fox is guarding the henhouse.
Meanwhile, Palisade looks like a small, provincial government that either doesn't understand why we have sunshine laws in this state, or doesn't care. We think its justification for withholding the report is on shaky legal ground. The town's attorney has determined that releasing the report could taint a jury. But there are remedies for that. There's no remedy for compromising the public's faith in law enforcement.
The remedy was to release the report, in accordance with the law, and let the pieces fall where they may.