As a newspaper guy I appreciate transparency. It seems to go in waves, and this week I feel like there was a big brown clog in the transparency pipeline. Whether it was law enforcement being tight-lipped about the shooting that took place Thanksgiving afternoon on Highway 135, the details of the Red Lady avalanche or the friction boiling over between board members (and staff) of the Met Rec District, getting answers from some people was like pulling teeth this week.
Two quick examples: The Red Lady avalanche was triggered by what has been described as a group of experienced locals. It was conveyed to me they were sort of embarrassed to have done it and I get that. In my world I would have loved for them to share their mistake and educate less experienced backcountry users (me) about what to do and what not to do. They have chosen to remain (somewhat) anonymous. Suffice to say they made a bad decision that could have been tragic for them and others in our community but they lucked out. I sometimes backcountry ski and don’t know a lot but I do know the obvious times not to do it. Their timing was awful, coming after a windy storm that dropped significant sweet pow on the backcountry billboard that is Red Lady. Let’s all be safe and smart this winter.
The most serious transparency plug is over the shooting by a law enforcement officer that took the life of a man on Highway 135 last Thanksgiving Day. Now, most people, including myself, understand the sensitive nature of an investigation into why a cop would shoot and kill a person. And I think the community has given the investigators some space to work. But it took many days to just release the name of the deceased and the Colorado State Patrol officer who did the shooting. Not much more definitive detail has been forthcoming. And when that happens, the general public begins to wonder why and the rumor mill ramps up. There is nothing good about either of those. So it is beyond disappointing that the investigators cannot release basic situational details of the incident.
I’ve sent dozens of questions to the local sheriff’s office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. Sheriff Rick Besecker responded that it is up to the state investigative team. He basically said he knows about as much as you know. Fair enough.
The CBI’s response was that they could not “provide answers to these (questions) at this point. Because this remains an active investigation, there are elements of the case that are still being investigated and cannot be released at this time.”
Patience may be a virtue but in a virtual world, there should be a pipeline of basic information that the public can access. That is a benefit for everyone involved and keeps the public in a position to support—rather than doubt and question—those in power.
As for the Met Wreck District (I just wanted to write that): There is obvious mistrust and dysfunction between some board members and among some board members and staff. What I witnessed from a video of the last meeting was a stew of toxicity. That has to change and I’m not sure the board is clear where it’s going since no one will commit to a definitive path right now and the lawyer is being tight-lipped. But the elected board members have the final responsibility to get that ship back in good shape. The public just entrusted the district with more tax money and a clear directive. The board has a community obligation to complete that directive. The November 19 meeting should have been a celebration for both TV people and outdoor recreationalists. Instead, it was a cluster. And now the community will no doubt keep a closer eye on what should be one of the least contentious political bodies in the county. But at the moment it is the most contentious. The sooner that is fixed the better.
Look, no one in any of these situations is lying. They are all just being extremely cautious. I can appreciate that to a point. But sharing the facts as they are available rarely does harm. It can show sincere effort toward honest conclusions. Being straight up and not letting things fester is also a positive in terms of public responsibility and trust. Let the facts fall where they may and life usually works itself out. Whether it is sharing in hindsight that it was too soon after a storm to try to nab tracks on Red Lady or revealing the life-threatening peril felt by an officer at an accident scene that led to deadly force, the public is part of the community and the community deserves to know the facts as they appear.