Our View: The need for transparency
Terrible events don’t keep a schedule.
It’s not that they come when we least expect it. That cliché isn’t true. It’s that we never expect it. We never think it’ll happen to us.
Two tragic events last week — the officer-involved shooting of Ariella Sage Eloise Crawford, and the Park View Drive fire that took a young girl’s life — prove that they do.
These two events are that much harder to cope with because they happened so close together in time. The Alta Sierra shooting was on Feb. 4. The fire happened about 24 hours later.
While unrelated, both have affected this community and dropped a somber cloud over our county.
There’s much we don’t know about both incidents. That’s partly because they remain under investigation. However, it’s also because the authorities haven’t been as transparent as they should be.
More details will come out, just not as fast as they should.
Proper investigations are necessary, and they are happening. A closer look is warranted anytime an officer discharges a firearm, and especially when someone is killed.
Someone is dead, their family and friends are forever affected, and the law enforcement officers involved must grapple with the fact they were part of it. There are no winners here.
In another part of our community, a house fire that killed a 3-year-old girl has left a family devastated and a community in mourning.
Answers as to what caused the fire will come, but they’ll be slow. They always are. Thorough investigations take time. We want them to get it right, but the community also needs information that can be released now.
And that’s what our local authorities must be prepared to provide.
This isn’t meant to be an attack on our law enforcement. They do good work under difficult circumstances. They more than deserve our respect.
But like our government, they work for us, and should understand when improvement is needed.
A video statement from the sheriff when a deputy has fatally shot someone doesn’t cut it. It appears contrived, prepackaged and cuts off any attempt at questions. That translates to a lack of transparency, something Sheriff Shannan Moon campaigned on.
This is an easy fix, especially in light of how the pandemic has attuned us to new methods of communication. Stand before the community in a Zoom meeting, give your statement and field questions from the news media. This provides the promised transparency, and a connection to the community that’s sorely needed.
The pandemic is almost a year old. Everyone’s anxiety level is high, and everyone’s shouldering worries. If ever there were a time for transparency, this is it.
Yes, Facebook is a way to get your message out, but it shouldn’t be the only way. And it sure isn’t the best way to lower anyone’s anxiety.
The same goes for fire officials. Getting the best information to people is important, but so is creating a bridge with the people who live here. Stand at the lectern, look them in the eye — or computer screen — and hear their concerns. Answer their questions, even if it’s with an “I don’t know.”
That back-and-forth between the public and authorities is what’s needed most during tragic events.
Not all incidents require daily press conferences, though some of them do. What’s certain is that these two high profile events — the shooting death of a mother and the death of a small child in a fire — warranted at least one such conference.
We believe our law enforcement and fire authorities are dedicated to their jobs and want the best for this county. These goals are exceeded when the public’s need for information is considered and acted upon.
That would only build upon the trust we already have for them, and satisfy the need for the transparency we all crave.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com
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