Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sheriff's New Website Informs, Inspires

In a post this past May, I highlighted the website of Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. His agency's site, which is not hosted by Larimer County itself, contains some very unique and somewhat irreverent perspectives on the nature of conducting the responsibilities of a Sheriff in Colorado.

In a similar turn, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey has established a web presence independent of the Sheriff's page on the County servers., which launched in late August, contains several different pages with information on a few of the numerous activities of the MCSO. At present these include Search and Rescue (I am a volunteer for the Communications team), public information and news releases, crime prevention, and the traffic unit. It appears to be designed to effectively interface with the MCSO's already established presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Sheriff Hilkey's home page seems to be set up like a blog, offering a running commentary about issues of current interest to all county residents. It is here that the Sheriff has hit the ground running, with an excellent commentary on the upcoming county referendum on medical marijuana, and continuing with a strongly-worded, thought provoking post Thursday about the nature of public safety operations and the news media.

Titled "Consumer Alert", Sheriff Hilkey urged citizens, as consumers of local news media, to:
"Qualify what you hear knowing that early information must be filtered and balanced with the facts that will emerge in the resulting slower, methodical investigation conducted by those that are tasked with being accurate."
The Sheriff went on to chide Grand Junction's daily print and television media for their reporting of information related to the shooting death of 16-year old Troy Martinez in Clifton on Sept. 2:
"Specifically, they reported the circumstances and cause of the death before the coroner’s release of information. As a result, it was widely reported that this youngster was killed when a “bullet exploded as a result of him and another boy trying to take it apart.” As we now know, that did not occur. The boy was shot by another youth with a firearm. The circumstances of the tragic shooting have yet to be publicly released and are part of the on-going, fact-finding investigation."
This information was also reported by media outlets in Denver, based upon the local reporting that the Sheriff took exception to.

I saw Sheriff Hilkey at a volunteer appreciation barbecue last Thursday night, and congratulated him on the post. He passed along that at least one local reporter was less than pleased, and I can imagine the mood at many a newsroom in town being similar. The Sheriff was interviewed by KREX regarding Proposition 102 earlier that day, and KJCT also reported that the MCSO is facing layoffs of up to 27 employees. Stan had a busy day.

At the same time I can understand some of the frustration in the media when they don't get anything from official sources except "the investigation is ongoing". When the actions of law enforcement are being questioned, such
as in the case of Jason Kemp and his fateful encounter with the Colorado State Patrol, the length of time it takes to evaluate the facts prior to releasing information has just as much potential to cause what Sheriff Hilkey called a "delay (in) the movement through the steps of grieving and moving through a crisis".

On a very positive note, the Sheriff''s new website also
contains an extraordinary story of how three sergeants, two teams of patrol deputies, and the MCSO's volunteer coordinator came to make a difference in the life of "Jerry the Hitchhiker". Give this one a few minutes of your time; it will leave you with a much different perspective about law enforcement than the media has left many citizens with of late.

Best wishes to the Sheriff and his staff for continued success with the site. It's a privilege to be associated, even in a small way, with an organization populated by these kinds of people.

Have a good week ahead.

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