Friday, August 7, 2009

Half-truths and rumors?

So that this reader's comment doesn't get lost in the long string of comments in the article about politicizing the Office of the Sheriff, I am going to post QuitWhiningAlready's (QWA) comment here in a new article.

QWA wrote, in part, "Gus receives letters that contain half truths and rumor. None of it is substantiated any further than, "Oh, I heard that, too!". And we all know that if more than one person "heard" something at the SO it must be fact!"

One of the first letters containing "half truths and rumor" that I received informed me that a certain sergeant with the McHenry County Sheriff's Department had caused an accident in Woodstock that was never reported in the newspaper and for which he did not receive a ticket.

The story is "old news" now and doesn't require retelling in great detail.

When I began checking it out, sure enough, it had happened. The sergeant said he was "distracted" because he had sighted a "suspect" on the sidewalk, and he ran the stop sign. Unluckily for him, there was a car crossing the intersection at the time and he hit it, causing damage to both cars.

The accident was investigated by a Woodstock police officer, who didn't ticket the sergeant. No report of that accident was ever printed in the Northwest Herald. The Woodstock Police Department told me that they don't report every "minor" accident to the media.

And the other driver didn't scream about no ticket having been issued. He was the son of a police chief of a nearby community. And that chief is a resident of Woodstock and is a member of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

I want to be quick to add that I suspect no involvement or influence from the father of the young man whose car got hit. But, if the officer didn't recognize the relationship of the driver to a BOFPC member, I am sure that someone was quick to inform him.

Any other driver - ANY driver! - who ran a stop sign and caused an accident would have gotten a ticket.

No wonder people criticize the police for giving favors to police officers who violate traffic laws. This only became a big deal for me because it got "buried." If the sergeant had gotten a ticket for causing the accident, I wouldn't have batted an eye over it.

Another reason given to me by the Woodstock Police Department for "no news" about the accident was that officers have discretion whether to issue tickets. And well they should. But not when a driver admits to being distracted when he ran a stop sign and caused an accident.

And so, to answer QWA, I do check out the so-called "half truths and rumors." Reading a police report about an accident seems to be pretty good confirmation of facts.

20 comments:

QuitWhiningAlready said...

I think that post must have been before I started reading, but if you give me a date range, I'd like to go back and read it.
It would likely take me all night to go back through your blog and cite examples of where you've spread unsubstantiated rumor, and I will...it will just take some time.

Gus said...

The accident occurred on April 27, 2006, approximately a year before I began publishing The Woodstock Advocate. If you are interested, you could submit a FOIA request for Woodstock (Ill.) PD Crash Report No. 4645 (in 2006) or contact IDOT for the report by its 2006 Control No. 1234191.

As is usual, the Woodstock officer's name is illegible, as is the name of the supervisor.

Is there a special class in police school to train officers how to write their name illegibly?

Actually, I don't know how you will be able to determine any "unsubstantiated rumor", unless you are with the McHenry County Sheriff's Department and have access to reports of all the incidents. And, if you do, you'll find out that what I have written is not unsubstantiated and it's not rumor.

QuitWhiningAlready said...

Actually, I was just interested in reading what you had written. And yes, there's a super top secret special class. We're issued special pens, too.

Braff Zackton said...

Hey Woodward by "publishing" you mean sitting on your couch in your jammies updating your personal blog right? Where is your impact? You can point at your counter but people will stand in the street and watch a fire, or an accident, or a person ranting and raving about "injustice". I'm psyched about your run for Sheriff too! Going to be great comedy. Stupid question: when you win, which you won't but hey go crazy, you're going to make sure all the Sheriff cars don't have your name on them? How much does repainting squad cars cost? Or are you going to provide the funds for that? Do you really think that removing a former Sheriff's name from a car is how we should be spending money in this economy? Please ignore my question and any don't give any further info about why you're qualified for the office. After all I'm just a voter.

Gus said...

The point, Braff, is that the "name" of the sheriff will come off the vehicles, as it will have to, anyway. And the name of the new sheriff will not be painted on the vehicles. Minor savings, but an important statement that these vehicles belong to the OFFICE of the Sheriff.

Braff Zackton said...

So again, as Sheriff aren't you in charge of what does and what doesn't get painted on the cars? So you'd rather spend the money to remove a name that isn't current? Also I can think of some positives of people knowing the name of the Sheriff in the county, and if they find out by passing a squad car with his name on it then fine. You just don't like the name, I mean you're talking about spending money either way. Also still a good job on ignoring the implied question about your qualifications.

Harry B. said...

Friend of a friend is a cop, they talk about this site all the time. They say it is like crack cocaine and they are hooked.

Looks like some people don't like what you're putting out. That must mean it's getting under their skin.

I just have one question and it's kind of rhetorical. If these are half truths, isn't it still wrong? When I smoke half a joint or drive half in the bag, it's still wrong? Right? I don't think I want someone to beat me half to death and it be okay. See what I mean?

joe said...

Gus, you should not spend one more brain cell worrying about the Sheriffs name coming off the squad cars.. That would only be in your dreams.. By the way, when you get a free minute after disparaging most of the police departments and police officers in the county, you may want to thank at least the 75 or so that volunteered there time at the Shop with a Cop fundraiser a couple weeks ago.. Funny, no body saw you taking or posting pictures of that..

Frank said...

Gus, I have first hand knowledge of things that I have witnessed, where you wrote about them before learning the facts. One article in particular you "heard" from someone and then wrote an article about it!!! The story you wrote was absoulute bull!!!

QuitWhiningAlready said...

Going back through just about every MCSO tagged post by you that involves receiving a letter/email/fax/phone call from an anon author, it's all rumor. Unsubstantiated rumor, Gus. All filled with words including, "I heard", "probably", "I was told", etc...

My favorite? You start the post titled "Pot Boils Over at Roll Call" published on on June 17th with, "Rumor has it...".

There are things that generate reports, and yes, on occasion it is easy to prove factual or dispell rumor with a police report, but for the sake of example, what about the Pavlins? You HAVE reports that you, someone who was NOT present at the scene and has NOT spoken with any of the deputies involved, argue are fraudulent, and you base that on the fact that you've "heard" the Pavlins tell their story and you believe them. That is your opinion, not substantiation, as is much of what you publish on this blog.

Bill Crittenden said...

So, wait, let's see, we should vote for a guy just so that we don't have to pay to have his name removed from the squad cars?

Well, holy crap, don't you know how much money we could save in Illinois by bringing back Rod Blagojevich!!!

What about George Bush? Shouldn't he have gotten a third term to save the money spent on redecorating the Oval Office for the Obama administration?

Imagine how much money was wasted buying new flags when the Soviet Union fell.

Gus said...

QWA, you are assuming that communications with me are anonymous. Nothing I have written would have caused such a conclusion.

Just because I choose to withhold a person's name and affilication is a choice I make.

Let's say, for a moment, that I know your name and employment affiliation? How would you feel if I revealed that by posting it where every reader would see it?

QuitWhiningAlready said...

It isn't about the anonymity, and when I wrote that it was more or less that you keep it anonymous to your readers, which is fine. I have no issue with that. It's the lack of substantiation. Even if you receive an email/fax/phone call/letter from someone providing you with a full name, it's the fact that the correspondence is filled with "I heard", "probably", "I was told" (specifically with regard to rumor). Gossip at the SO is nothing new, and just because someone writes you a note bringing you into the gossip loop does not make that gossip "truth". It is largely subjective, don't you think?

GeneL said...

QWA, is the roll call incident untrue? I heard it was Milliman and Asplund vs. Vogel. Have you asked them if the story was false? You work there, it wouldn't take long to ask. The stories Gus receives are from the many "leaks" in the SO. Gus is the only way these stories will ever get out. The sheriff tries to stop free speech, but all that it takes is an anonymous letter to Gus to get things rolling, just ask the Pavlin's. Apparently the grand jury, like Gus ,believed the Pavlin's side of the incident more than the deputie's side. Maybe the grand jury just went off the info on Gus's blog.

Gus said...

QWA, I don't believe that I wrote that tipsters told me that "they heard, believed, felt" etc. I used those words to further hide their identity. I work very hard to avoid revealing anything about a tipster, so that retaliation or retribution toward them can be prevented.

When I get a tip from, let's say, a member of a law enforcement agency, and then I go to Woodstock PD and FOIA an accident report and find that an accident did occur as "tipped" and, in fact, no ticket was issued to the at-fault driver (law enforcement) and the news item never made it into the newspaper, I'd said the tip was substantiated.

WPD certainly doesn't control what the Northwest Herald prints. Cops and deputies have their own friends at the paper, which means that some of what is news never becomes news.

There is nothing wrong with friendships between reporters and cops, as long as "favors" don't keep the public from learning the news.

Gus said...

Frank, since you have first-hand knowledge, then why don't you write up what happened. Be sure to mention date, time, who was involved; then readers will know you are writing about an event.

Be sure to mention what I wrote that was incorrect. Refer to my article by title or date or keyword, so that readers can compare your version with mine.

QuitWhiningAlready said...

In an example such as the traffic accident, you're able to pull a report and it's easy to prove or disprove. I'm referring to the things that are published on this blog regarding the less "tangible"; the he-said/she-said. And the way I've read a number of your posts with info received via email, etc...it appears that you're printing exactly as the original author has written, and not paraphrasing or summarizing. Is this not the case? If it IS the case, you should definitely preface so there is no misunderstanding, don't you think?

Frank said...

Gus I will not write any more about the incident other than I watched the incident go down with my own eyes and within a couple days what you "heard" was on your blog, however, your version was not even close to what really happened. Again it was just what you were told.

Gus said...

Frank, if your "incident" was the crash at E. Jackson and Seminary, are you saying that the crash report was false?

Harry B. said...

How come DA is not commenting here?