Police Abuse

Lack of Transparency on North Dakota Police Shooting Spurs Scathing Editorial

Authorities blame involvement of multiple agencies for info issues, say they're trying to be as transparent as possible.


Grand Forks Herald

In the early hours of Saturday morning, a multi-county chase in North Dakota ended with a suspect, David James Elliot, whose wife says he was unarmed, shot six times by University of North Dakota cops as he sat in his pick-up truck in the parking lot of a local hospital. A police report on the incident accuses Elliot of fleeing from police, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, all allegations appearing to stem from the chase itself.  Elliot remains in the hospital and will require facial reconstruction surgery according to his wife. Elliot was not arrested and there are no police officers monitoring him at the hospital.

The local police won't release details on the shooting, telling the Grand Forks Herald that media inquiries should be directed to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which is investigating the shooting. But the attorney general's office, which supervises the BCI, tells the Herald that while that agency is investigating the shooting the local police are responsible for media inquiries.

Police have yet to say what the chase of Elliot began over, which officer was involved in the shooting, or what prompted the shooting, leading the Herald to run an editorial calling the police's lack of transparency "unaccountable." The Herald notes:

Want to breed public distrust of the police and law-enforcement in general? Here's a checklist on how to do it:

  • Withhold basic information and let rumors run rampant in coffee shops and on social media sites.
  • Appear unorganized and ignorant of basic protocols, such as which agency is actually in charge of public information.
  • Adopt a "nothing to see here" approach when the whole darn town knows (and sees) otherwise.
  • Disregard state law, which states that agencies are required to provide information in these types of incidents, including a chronology of events as well as initial offense report information showing the offense, date, time, general location, officer and a brief summary of what happened.

"Silence breeds mistrust, and with good reason," the Herald editorializes, hoping the public demands more information. Read the whole thing here.