Jared Cerullo is a former investigative journalist in Wichita, Kansas:
“I just can’t bite my tongue any longer on this subject and I apologize because this is going to turn out to be a very long post. While I’m not going to sit here and so quickly judge the three Omaha officers who shot and killed a suspect and a COPS TV show crew member, I can certainly give an opinion about how the department handled one aspect of the immediate aftermath in the media. The chief in Omaha immediately released the names of the three officers involved who are now on paid leave. This is NEVER done in Wichita. Not even after the investigation is complete.
I believe police officers are public servants and I certainly believe that the vast majority of our police officers are absolutely astounding in the jobs they do. However, just like elected officials, when you sign on the dotted line for that type of job, you not only report to your supervisors, but also to the public you serve, to an extent. If you exercise the most powerful government tool given to ANYONE by taking a life, I believe no matter what, your identity deserves to be known by the public who pays your salary, whether the shooting was justified or not. I also believe that if you abuse your power, you deserve to be called out for it.
But being justified is another matter, considering every officer/deputy involved in a shooting in Wichita/Sedgwick County for the past 20+ years has been exonerated and deemed justified by the local DA. In my 20+ years of news reporting, I discovered more facts than the general public was allowed to hear on many of those shootings, especially in the last few years. Many of those facts, I was not allowed to report publicly because either my supervisors wouldn’t let me or the police obviously wouldn’t confirm.
The current WPD administration is changing and I believe that is a good thing. Now is the time for this department, which I believe serves it’s community exceptionally, to change this type of public policy. It’s simply about trust and accountability… that’s it. I’m certainly not trashing our local law enforcement agencies, as I’ve said several times in this post that I believe they do an astounding job. However, there has never been a ruling on the officer who shot and killed Troy Lanning II.
This officer, it turns out, was actually involved in THREE separate shootings in a period of a few years, one of which was deemed FALSE. In other words, THE OFFICER MADE IT ALL UP. After pleading with my supervisors that this story was certainly newsworthy, I was finally given permission to begin gathering the facts for it. Of course, I hit nothing but roadblocks, but I wanted to get down to the bottom of it for the sake of public openness. When I began digging for the facts, I didn’t even know that this officer was involved in the other two shootings. But other officers within the department, some very high ranking, discovered that I was digging and they came to me on an anonymous basis.
I discovered that this officer was going to be returned to duty within the next couple of days and decided to report what I knew. This was the story: http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/WPD-Officers-Leave-Extended-After-Allegations-Of-Misconduct-171383201.html. I’m very proud of that story, but you’ll notice it does not include anything about the fact that Williamson completely fabricated one of the shootings he was involved in. In fact, it’s never been reported by any local news agency, but they all know it. The police wouldn’t confirm it. I had no official source. My bosses wouldn’t let me include it.
Officer Williamson was only suspended for the simple fact that I told WPD brass that I was going to publish the story… not because of anything surrounding the facts of the case, but because I was going to report the story. Officer Williamson was eventually granted medical retirement. You’re still paying his salary.
But back to the original point, why has it taken two years for a report on Williamson to be released? If I was involved in a shooting that was ruled justified or not, my name would be plastered all over the news within 24 hours and the police would have willingly released it, or at the very least, provided clues to reporters on how to find it. Why are officers held to a different standard? I thought they were supposed to be held to a higher standard. Higher standard comes with higher accountability.
Finally, I leave you with a quote from George Orwell. ‘Real journalism is printing something someone doesn’t want you to print. Everything else is just public relations.'” – Jared Cerullo