Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Public left out on police probe

January 9, 2002

There was a sign that both the split in the Baldwin City Council and the Baldwin City Police Department may be headed towards common ground. But, that is apparently also going to happen at the price of the public's right to know.

The council voted during Monday's meeting on whether to release the "Bennett Report," the findings of special counsel Mark Bennett's investigation into the department this summer. The report was the basis for disciplinary action taken against Police Chief Steve Butell and six officers. All seven appealed. Those appeals remain in limbo until another executive session scheduled for Wednesday night.

But what has been made clear is that all sides want closure. Don't we all. The entire police investigation has left a cloud over the department since it was launched in July. It's time that cloud was lifted.

However, the council split on how best to do that. Instead of voting to release the Bennett Report to show why the discipline was handed out and end the speculation that has existed since July, three council members George McCrary, Ted Brecheisen Jr. and Marilyn Pearse voted to keep the report secret.

They claim more harm would come by the report's release.

Councilmen Todd Cohen and Ken Wagner, who voted for the report's release, and Mayor Ken Hayes, who only breaks tie votes, wanted the report released so the citizens of Baldwin could see what went on in the police department that warranted discipline.

Which is right? We'll never know because the report remains secret. We can only speculate why our chief of police and four officers were suspended. We don't have to speculate on the council's opinion on the public's right to know.

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