Take the blinders off, now

Transparency is needed in our community.
May 30, 2013

If the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department had its druthers, we wouldn’t know about any of the major crimes — sexual assault and domestic violence included — that occur in our area until the perpetrator has been arrested, charged and completely ushered through the court system.

We also wouldn’t know the streets on which minor incidents occurred, or if there were any arrests or citations in those incidents.

For nearly a year, the Tribune has been able to provide to our readers a log of public safety activities in the Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg areas. We thank the local police departments for collaborating in providing valuable information to the community.

For about as long, however, the Tribune has asked the Sheriff’s Department to assist in this endeavor to provide similar information for the townships of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Crockery and Robinson. They have failed to deliver.

We feel that it is necessary to arm our citizens with information about crimes or incidents that occur in their neighborhoods. This information — which is public under FOIA laws — is important. It allows residents to know why there was a police car next door, or why a fire truck sat one street over. These residents may then make an informed decision regarding how to best protect themselves and their families.

It’s not like we’re out to print your address when something happens at your house. We simply feel people have the right to know when criminal activities are taking place on their block.

One reader suggested that people simply ask the Sheriff’s Department about all of the crime in their neighborhood. Good luck with that. Officials will just point you to their incident mapping online.

The mapping shows a general area where some calls for assistance originate. It doesn’t tell you the street officers were dispatched to, or any outcomes. The county also excludes any domestic violence, sexual assaults or drug incidents — to name just a few crimes that never make the map.

So, as one Grand Haven Township resident put it so eloquently, that leaves us with an unhelpful “dog’s breakfast.”

When issued FOIA requests for reports or other public documents related to cases, the Sheriff’s Department often responds in a similar manner. Most requests are delayed, denied or otherwise foiled.

There’s a lot of dodging and weaving going on at the Fillmore Street Complex with regards to providing public information.

A Tribune reader recently asked in an e-mail to us: “Why the arrogance from that office, why the stonewalling?”

Good question, sir, good question.

Perhaps as more citizens stand up and demand the release of public records, they’ll be handed over with less “stonewalling.” It’d be the right thing to do.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.
 

Comments

zwesterhouse

I moved to a southern state at one time. And I came back like lightning. Our sheriff here is nothing like a southern sheriff. If you FOIA or its equivalency in a southern state the local sheriff down yonder will pull out his baton - proceed to tell you who in the heck he is and who you aint. Our sheriff may have his little quirks, but I'm so glad to be out of Alabama. Just watch Mississppi Burning or Walking Tall 1, 2 and Final Chapter. Thats the way it is down there. I know one thing for sure - I aint given no Sheriff any crap.

newspaperlawyer

Maybe its just the Grand Haven Tribune having trouble with this issue. It seems the local TV stations don't seem to have these troubles with getting information.

polarize

I agree newspaperlawyer! And besides....what's the problem with how information is handled here? It appears the tribune is only looking for sensationalism to print without regard to the potential harm it can cause those involved.

There is nothing being hidden at the OCSD and their job is to protect ALL CITIZENS not make a target out of some for the community to make assumptions that basically lead to virtual tar and feathering folks based on media hysteria.

Let the sheriffs department do their job and if you need to know about it then it will be shared. I for one know Sherriff Rosema to be a man of integrity who can make wise decisions in the best interests of the county citizens and he doesn't need a bunch of citizens who have nothing else to do but poke their nose in everyone else's life to bully him around at the prompting of the Grand Haven Tribune.

This is a small community and if the Grand Haven Tribune can't find positive and useful news to share then it doesn't justify trampling all over others just to have something hair-raising to report.

As for those Southern Sherriffs, God bless them for looking at for the interests of the whole citizenry but it is doubtful that one can be informed from watching a movie about the 1960s civil rights movement to pass such judgement. Be fair about it. They are no different than anyone else except that Alabama's Crimson Tide is a joke in my book but besides that have a nice day :)

anotherreader

Despite what your "editorial board" thinks, people in this country are innocent until proven guilty. It is not the neighborhood's business why there is a "police car next door." Printing those city police logs feeds your Grand Haven gossip mill-perpertuating the cliques of the city. You should write about things that bring people together. As one of your 43 readers, I prefer to see you write about news--not rumors. PS-I also think it is ridiculous that you created an imaginary reader to give you the cheesy "thumbs up."

Gwen66

Seems the Tribune needs to take it's Blinders off! I know for a fact that the Tribune chooses not to publish all calls or even all convictions. It picks and chooses which information to publish about individuals. I believe only convictions should be published if anything at all. If I should call the police on a personal matter for help, I don't want it published in the Tribune gossip pages. I tend to agree with the other commentators on this issue thus far. And I also Laughed Out Loud at the "cheesy thumbs up!"

Wingmaster

Congratulations, you are aware of the agenda driven media bias reporting on these pages!

Are your facts based on here say our from an inside source?

GHJames

I would go as far as arrests being worthy of printing, but only where there is a reason the public should / would like to know. Most of the police calls I see printed are nothing of any interest except to the overly nosey. I could get mad at my neighbor and drop a dime on him anonymously that there is a smell of marijuana coming from his house. Cops show up and determine there is nothing, but everyone else on the street sees the car there. The next week it gets printed as a narcotics complaint for the whole neighborhood to see even though there was nothing to it. Ahhhhhh! Sweet revenge small town style!

wmrelief

If the Tribune is so concerned in making Ronald Frantz and his cronies at the OC Prosecutors and Sherrifs office not releasing FOIA information maybe they should sue him like Eric Vandussen from Traverse City did. He won and Frantz had to hand over 700 pages of documents after refusing his request for public records completely. (Said he didn't have to) He was 1 of only 2 prosecutors out of all 83 in MI that refused to hand over the public data. You know there's corruption when you have to sue public officials to get public information!
http://record-eagle.com/local/x2...

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