There are some things newspapers just don’t do. One example, some would say, is recommending that the area they cover improve its public relations strategy. After all, the media thrives on shedding light on sometimes controversial issues, and would hate to see the people it reports on become adept at “spinning” and keeping suspicious goings-on under wraps.
But this time”and we hope we don’t have to give up our Illinois Press Association awards for breaking a sacred rule”we see no choice but to make an exception. Who thought it would be a bright idea, with the village already taking a beating from its critics, to play games with taxpayers’ dollars in attempting to fire Sgt. Dan Harder and hire an outside investigator to investigate another longtime cop (who happens to be a close friend and supporter of Harder’s) on a petty charge?
Of course, we wouldn’t want village officials to allow appearances to interfere with conducting their affairs in the way they see fit. We’re thankful that local politicians do not have to govern according to the latest opinion polls, and we hope their sense of responsibility to the public, rather than responding to fleeting criticism, guides their decisions.
The strange thing in this case, however, is that it appears the village’s decision was, in fact, a reaction to publicity. Police Chief James Ryan, testifying during the Harder hearing, said he asked for an outside investigator to be hired to investigate Steve Johnsen because it was a “high-profile” case, and he did not want to create the impression that Johnsen was being singled out.
Assuming that a single article in the Review makes such an incident a conversation starter three months later, let’s see if we’ve got this straight: The village thought it would make the case less “high-profile” by hiring a private detective to investigate a disorderly conduct charge?
And Johnsen was supposed to feel less targeted when an outside investigator was brought in and paid $100 an hour to look into a single citizen complaint without any known evidence of wrongdoing?
Can you run that by us one more time?
Ryan said every citizen complaint is investigated, which may or may not be accurate, but these things are normally handled internally, with no added expense. Even the investigation of Harder was an internal matter until someone, somehow, decided there was enough evidence to build a case for his firing.
The question begs to be asked: Are we looking into anything specific here, or is this just an expensive fishing expedition? We’ll find that out soon enough, but for now, all we know is that another silly, embarrassing incident that should have been forgotten a long time ago is back in the news and back on people’s minds.