Keep this excellent investigative journalism in mind next time City officials want you to lavish more money on the Salem Police Department, which will occur in the November election via a proposed payroll tax.
The Salem Reporter has a great update on the thoroughly sleazy behavior by the department following the death of a cyclist on March 28 at the hands of a federal DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) employee who drove through a stop sign and killed Marganne Allen, who was riding her bicycle on High Street.
After the Salem Reporter obtained cell phone call records, email logs and police mobile computer entries from the police department, journalist Ardeshir Tabrizian wrote New details emerge on how Salem police managed DEA crash information.
It's infuriating to read how the police department closely communicated with the employer of the man who killed Allen after driving recklessly, while keeping Salem citizens in the dark about what happened. Here's some excerpts from the story.
Salem police had more frequent contact than previously known with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration while investigating one of its agents for involvement in a fatal bicycle collision, according to recently released records.
The contacts suggest the two agencies worked to manage what information was shared with the public beginning within hours of the crash.
That apparent coordination conflicts with the Salem Police Department’s repeated assertions since the March collision that it couldn’t disclose to outsiders information about the investigation.
And the records show that Salem’s police chief soon after the fatal crash was discounting that anyone would be charged in the March 28 death of cyclist Marganne Allen. That was before he decided to turn over the case to another agency because of the close professional linkages between his department and the DEA.
Marion County prosecutors said last week that they still haven’t decided whether to charge the DEA agent in the cyclist’s death.
...The day of the collision, Salem citizens were told by police on social media only that the road was closed due to a “collision with a pedestrian.” The investigation shut down a high-traffic intersection in central Salem just before rush hour.
But records show that Salem police spokeswoman Angela Hendrick, a civilian employee charged with providing the public information about police matters, was almost immediately on the phone with her DEA counterpart.
Public information officers for the two agencies kept up such contacts over four days while citizens were left in the dark, first about the fatality and then about the federal agent’s role in the collision, according to a Salem Reporter investigation.
The handling raises questions about Salem police coordinating with an outside law enforcement agency to steer the flow of public information that appeared to favor the federal agent – a possible suspect – over the victim.
The full extent and purpose of the contacts between Salem police and the DEA remain unclear because neither agency will explain their actions after the collision.
This is disgusting. It sure seems that the Salem Police Department cared much more about standing shoulder to shoulder with the employer of the federal agent, Samuel Landis, than with providing timely and accurate information about the death of Allen.
The Salem Reporter wasn't looking for information about the investigation into Landis' actions on the day he killed Allen. What they sought, and got, was information about communications between the police department and the DEA following the cyclist's death.
Yet our supposedly open and transparent police department (according to department leadership) refuses to answer questions from the Salem Reporter about contacts with the DEA.
Emails from City Councilor Vanessa Nordyke showed her concern about the police department's failure to communicate with citizens.
Councilor Vanessa Nordyke on May 16 told [Police Chief] Womack and City Manager Keith Stahley via email that her constituents were “deeply concerned about this case.” She asked that the chief speak about the Allen matter at the next council meeting and be prepared for questions.
...The chief also informed the city manager that he would be out of the state and unable to attend the May 22 council meeting.
Nordyke again wrote to the city manager after that meeting.
“I’m disappointed that no one from the police department presented information on this incident last night, despite the fact that I gave advance notice,” she wrote. “I have been careful to tread lightly to respect those in mourning. But when the community repeatedly asks me about a serious incident like this, they (and Councilors) reasonably expect a response. I highly doubt I’m the only member of Council getting questions about this. I have real concerns about transparency in city government, and the city’s response thus far to this incident only concerns me further.”