City makes a good choice by seeking an independent review

Last Thursday, the city responded to questions from this newspaper about concerns from readers regarding the process the city followed in hiring its new police chief, John King, and announced an independent investigator has been hired.

We have requested a copy of a crime report allegedly filed with the Susanville Police Department regarding this matter. According to the law, the police department has 10 days to respond to our Public Records Act request. We also have asked the California Department of Justice for comment since that criminal complaint has allegedly been forwarded to that agency for investigation as well. The DOJ has not yet responded to our request for comment, but we will continue our effort discover what they have to say, even though we know the DOJ frequently will neither confirm nor deny an ongoing investigation and generally decline to comment. The matter reportedly also has been turned over the Lassen County Grand Jury, but they, too, are unlikely to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Some of our more perceptive readers may notice we have not published the accusations included in this crime report. That is not an accident or an oversight. In this era filled with allegations of fake news and even real fake news, this newspaper still adheres to our long-standing tradition of adherence to the truth and not publishing hearsay, especially in cases such as this that may suggest possible criminal violations. While other media outlets might choose to report details obtained through gossip and conspiracy theories, we do not. We believe we should be able to obtain a copy of a duly filed crime report on the matter. We will continue our efforts to obtain that crime report, and we will report on its allegations once we have the document in our possession. It would be unethical for us to report on the contents of a document we’ve never seen just because a readers tell of about it.

We believe the readers who called us to express their concerns are knowledgeable and reliable, and the chief of police and the city administrator have acknowledged the existence of this crime report, and they are familiar with its contents. That being said, it would be improper for us to report on this crime report until we have that document in our possession.

We also should praise and commend the city for conducting an independent review of this matter. The city hired the chief of police, and some would question the validity of its investigation for that reason, regardless of how thorough, complete and impartial its review might have been.

It’s been a long and winding road unraveling these questions, and when the newspaper first started its inquires some of those we asked didn’t even know about the existence of this crime report. One credible law enforcement source told us the alleged crime is so minor we will be disappointed when we finally find out what it is. Be that as it may, our readers should know we’re willing to ask the hard questions when they have concerns about the functioning of their government. And we also hope our readers will recognize allegations are only allegations. They are not facts. Allegations don’t prove anything.

We need to give the system a chance to work. An independent investigator has been hired to look into these questions. We have to trust this investigator will do the job he’s been hired to do and wait for the results before we make up our minds.