The Truckee Police, the newspapers and you | SierraSun.com

The Truckee Police, the newspapers and you

Nik Dirga, Sierra Sun Editor

So I was at 7-11 Friday morning getting my daily fix of caffeine and newspapers, when I noticed there was a letter for me posted on the bulletin board outside the store.

In large scrawled letters, it said, “to the editor of the Sierra Sun.”

An unorthodox way to submit a letter to the paper, I’ll admit.

Of course, it was unsigned, which pretty much guarantees we wouldn’t run it in the paper anyway – as our submissions guidelines on these pages every week state, we don’t print anonymous letters.

Anyway, this letter took issue with the New Year’s story I wrote for the Jan. 3 paper about the number of drunk driving arrests over the holiday.

Specifically, the author of this letter, whom I’ll call “Mr. X” for convenience’s sake, takes issue with what he calls “my hip hip for Truckee’s modern police state mentality.”

He or she then goes on to criticize the police department, with allegations of them speeding throughout town and alleyways. “Every day we see these guys speeding through town at sixty,” Mr. X writes, “presenting themselves as a menace.”

“My apologies here to the cops who are law abiding, safe and protecting,” writes Mr. X. “To you also I say, you’re working with a few creeps who are making you look bad.”

The letter concludes with a lengthy report on what happened at several downtown bars at New Year’s Eve. Sounds like it was fun, but that wasn’t the point of my article.

What Mr. X doesn’t understand is that my story was not intended to be about the parties and fun events people did on New Year’s. My story was simply intended to report on the local law enforcement’s efforts to crack down on DUI arrests on New Year’s Eve. Nothing more. Perhaps I should’ve indicated as much in the story so folks like Mr. X would have realized we weren’t trying to report exhaustively on every bash and party in the area.

More disturbing to me, however, is that Mr. X seems to believe the Truckee Police Department has created a “police state mentality,” and that the Sierra Sun is somehow bought and paid for by the department to act as their public relations machine.

Maybe Mr. X hasn’t seen the cocaine allegedly on sale pretty much every weekend at some of the local mobile home parks.

Maybe Mr. X wasn’t there when a Glenshire couple nearly died in November when a meth-crazed lunatic allegedly stole their car and threatened them with a knife.

Maybe Mr. X didn’t pay attention last April when a 1-year-old girl was beaten to death in Truckee, allegedly by a man already convicted once of child abuse.

Since the department formed, I’ve gotten some letters – usually anonymous, again – from people angry for getting a speeding ticket in downtown Truckee for the first time ever, or that they saw it took two police cars to pull over someone and give them a DUI.

It’s kind of understandable — we’ve gone from having capable, but limited, law enforcement by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office for many years to suddenly having our own 30-person police department committed entirely to enforcing the law in this town. It’s a big change.

Does increased enforcement make us, as Mr. X claims, a “modern police state”?

Personally, I don’t think so. There is a need for the Truckee Police Department.

Those who choose to put their heads in the sand and pretend it’s still 1962 in Truckee and we don’t have a growing gang problem in our schools, we don’t have cocaine and methamphetamine and even the odd whisper of heroin, and we don’t have crime – wake up.

There is crime in Truckee, and pretending there isn’t won’t solve anything.

It’s like the folks I see in the police reports every week who don’t lock their car doors downtown and then have the cell phone or CD collection sitting on the passenger seat stolen. There’s about a dozen of those reports in every week’s police log, and not all of them are tourists.

Mr. X claims that “(our) participation in this bizarre public relations campaign is due to a desire to wage a War on Fun.” I don’t consider cocaine sales, drunk driving, child abuse or carjacking “fun.” But then again, I’m over 30 now, and maybe I’m out of touch with “fun.”

We’re a newspaper. We’re here to report the news, and when we cover the police we report the news they make – the arrests, the drug busts, the car wrecks. We’ve reported more police news since the new department formed because there’s been much more police action in Truckee to report.

And yes, I have made a concerted effort as editor to cover this new department since it formed in August and to show our readers what their money is being spent on.

At the same time, the Sierra Sun’s coverage of the police department will always strive to be unbiased. Yes, we may miss the boat a few times, but you’re always invited to let us know when that happens.

When the TPD was sworn in back in August, I sat down with pretty much the entire department and talked about the press’s relationship with the police. Police and the newspapers do need to work together in order to get the news to the people in an efficient and timely fashion. They give us weekly copies of their call logs, tip us off if something big is happening, and of course we have our police scanner on at the office at all times.

That doesn’t mean we’re not independent, however, or that we simply are spoon-fed all police coverage by the TPD without us trying to do a little reporting and investigating of our own.

I told the Truckee Police Department in August that, if there ever was evidence of serious misconduct by one of their officers, we would use the same diligence we use to report anything else to tell our readers about a crooked cop.

Chief Dan Boon and his staff understand and respect that, I believe.

In truth, Mr. X does make a few good points in his anonymous letter, and I fully agree with the philosophy that those who police us should also be “policed” by citizens themselves to make sure they’re conducting their jobs properly, and held accountable if they’re not.

Of course, Mr. X says this all anonymously. Getting a letter in the paper is about having the guts to put your name in print to your opinions. If you don’t sign your name you can say whatever you want and slander whomever you want without worrying about any possible repercussions to you. Of course, it’s usually the anonymous letters where people go all out with their invective because they don’t have to be worried about being held accountable for their words.

Mr. X, if you’d care to step forward and respond with a letter that signs your name to it, here’s your invitation.

I’m more than happy to get a dialogue going on the police department’s usefulness here in the paper. But let’s not do it with anonymous, misguided attacks posted on convenience store bulletin boards.

The paper is here for a reason, and everyone is welcome to talk to us any time you care to do so.