Defending the Star & Sickle

From the Red Star’s reader representative:

On the local scene: On Friday, May 13, this newspaper reported that St. Paul Police Sgt. Gerald Vick, killed in the line of duty a week earlier and laid to rest a day before, had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit for driving at the time of his death. The Star Tribune’s report carried the page one headline “St. Paul police officer was drunk when shot.” A firestorm of reaction ensued with more than 80 readers contacting the reader’s representative. About two-thirds were furious with the report. Of those, about half said the newspaper shouldn’t have reported the news at all or at least not on page one. The other half objected to the word “drunk” in the headline, but reluctantly agreed the test results were news that had to be reported, despite the dreadful timing for the grieving family. About a third of the 80 readers thought criticism of the media was unfair, that the test results could affect the prosecution — clearly an issue of intense public interest — and were newsworthy.

It’s not up for debate; the cop was sloshed when he was shot. Considering that the newspapers never hesitate to report that someone wasn’t wearing a seatbelt or a helmet in a fatal accident – but only, of course, when they’re not – what distinguishes this bit of information is that it’s probably actually relevant to the case.

The deification of the police in this day defies belief. Most are decent human beings, plenty are not. They don’t protect anyone, they don’t even have a legal obligation to do so and their primary responsibility is picking up the pieces afterward so that the public won’t feel that the authorities are helpless.

My cop friends will be the first to admit that the possibility that this guy drank too much and started something he couldn’t finish is a real one. To sweep the facts under the table in order to present a palatable image of a noble, sanctified and fallen hero would be disgusting and an offense to the real heroes.

For once, I think the Star & Sickle is being unfairly criticized, which is a pity because there’s so much for which they genuinely deserve criticism, if not ridicule.