Reassured: Fayetteville Police Are Competent

“Reassure us.” That was the below-the-fold headline found on the op-ed page of the Fayetteville Observer on Friday, Jan. 3rd. How disappointing. What a terrible way to start the new year.

The fact that our local, daily newspaper has a very hard time finding the positive side to even the most simple situations should be of great concern to our community’s residents. That short, but emphatic, editorial spoke volumes about the newspaper’s ongoing reluctance to provide our community balanced news and worse still, questions the integrity of the men and women who daily put their lives on the line in protection of our city.

01-08-14-pub-notes.gifThe subtitle of this bogus editorial was “Our View: OfFIcer Cleared. But Shootings Leave Tension.” The editorial referenced an incident involving Fayetteville Police OfFIcer, Denton Heath Little, who, in the line of duty, fatally shot and killed Lawrence Graham III. Graham displayed a gun during a routine trafFIc stop. This was a very heartbreaking incident.

Any time you have a situation involving the loss of life, the community is going to “struggle” with questions. We all get that. It’s a part of life. Grieving families and friends want to know why. We all want to feel safe on our city streets. We want to know that those who enforce the rules are following the rules. And that’s really what the editorial should have been about.

But instead of using editorial space to let the community know that proper procedures were followed and that a thorough internal investigation conducted by state and local law enforcement officials found Officer Little’s actions prudent and lawful, the editorial questioned whether or not the investigation results were correct. Really?

Based on the results of the investigation, which had input from the State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney Billy West decided not to take criminal action against Little. The investigation found that this well-trained Fayetteville police officer acted, and reacted, properly in the line of duty. Little’s actions saved his life and perhaps the lives of others.

Why isn’t that newsworthy? Why wasn’t it reported as an indication that our police department is competent, well trained, diligent and capable of responding to Fayetteville’s major concern: Crime. Isn’t this news? Why lose a great opportunity to assure our community, that we are in good hands?

Instead, the local newspaper chose to plant unsavory seeds of doubt and suspicion not only in regards to our police force but to our entire system. This undermines the goal of creating and maintaining safe Fayetteville communities. What is the motive here?

Is the newspaper trying to foster unrest and disharmony in the community? I hope not. But what is the purpose of questioning the FIndings and why suggest that this would be a good time for the Fayetteville Police Department to “redouble its efforts to ensure officers are well-trained and conditioned to make the best split-second decision when faced with similar situations, so future incidents have a better chance of turning out differently.”

Turning out differently? How? I hope by “differently” they mean that nobody gets killed and not that the police officer gets killed instead or that the bad guy gets away with a crime.

The newspaper’s position is that this would be an appropriate time to reassure our community that our police department is competent and can hold itself accountable when doubts arise. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened, and the newspaper failed to acknowledge it, but instead chose to sensationalize the incident.

One Final note: At this point, the family of Lawrence Graham III and their local attorneys Allen Rogers and Coy Brewer are considering a civil suit against the city. For what? The police department doing its job?

Until all of the players in our community get on the same page and realize that fostering discontent will only tear the city down, we will have a difficult time moving forward.

Photo: A recent editorial in the Fayetteville Observer casts doubt on the results of an investigation involving a Fayetteville Police Officer. 

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