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Story sensationalized ‘civil’ Law Board exchange

By Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

The Riley County Law Board had its March meeting on the 24th, and, as usual, there was media coverage. The Mercury’s story appeared the next day.

Having been at the meeting, I found the Mercury’s lengthy story to be far out of proportion to the actual event, with the many columns of coverage suggestive of a cataclysm.

After having absorbed the article, my first reaction was wonder — wonder that there was no editorial restraint that might have guided an energetic reporter not to overdo what one learns in Journalism 101.

The net result was to sensationalize what was a very civilized exchange.

During the public comment period, Rusty Wilson spoke of what he felt were undue actions by members of the Riley County Police Department in relation to him and his businesses. RCPD Director Brad Schoen respond-ed with detailed and pertinent background, giving earnest atten-tion to unresolved questions.

Mr. Wilson’s comments were respectful and professional, and Director Schoen was consider-ate and thorough. Yes, it was plain that problems and percept-ions require attention, but the exchange was handled with courtesy and a commitment to resolve issues.

Operating a police department is an onerous responsibility with inevitable occasions for diffi-culty and misunderstanding. But Manhattan and Riley County are fortunate to have a department that is skillfully managed and conducted by highly trained professionals. It is overseen by a seven-member law board deeply committed to public safety.

Conflict or the appearance of conflict seem to be news, though. Yet there is skimpy news coverage of the many occasions at which praise and honor are extended to the police department for heroic and even life-saving actions that our force is trained to give. Tuesday’s article put the overall picture way out of balance.

Finally, experience shows that in police matters, there will be situations in which dissatis-faction occurs. But we should appreciate what it’s too easy to take for granted — a level of public safety that is maintained by a first-rate police department.

We do, however, need more information and understanding about the pathways for express-ing concern and gaining needed correction or improvement. The Citizens Advisory Board is a group representing the public, and its mission is to create understanding of and attention to citizens’ concerns about police matters. Additionally, members of the Law Board are emphatic in encouraging citi-zens to contact them individually with questions and issues regarding law enforcement — and in a fully confidential way.

All are committed to making things better, and that’s what we all look forward to in Manhattan and Riley County.

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