By Ron Angle
The role of a newspaper columnist is to provide perspective to the news of the day. The role of a newspaper reporter is to report the basic facts and no more: the standard who, what, when, where and why.
Opinion is not within the purview of a good reporter. In contrast, the newspaper columnist functions with the basic assumption that the reader has already read the news of the day presented by the reporters. The columnist then goes a step further and offers commentary on selected news of the day.
Since 1958, I often have functioned as either a reporter or columnist, and sometimes both. The columnist has the same journalistic responsibility to report the facts. But he or she can also offer their own personal interpretation of the facts.
As a columnist, I’ve tried to keep my own emotional responses distant from what I write. I’ve also tried hard to not be vindictive. I have a responsibility to be both honest and fair. Columnists would rather have their readers reach their own conclusions when offered a set of facts.
But most columnists do sometimes find their pet balloon pricked beyond acceptance. That is when it gets interesting. Some aggravated columnists get Pulitzer Prizes. Most just get indigestion.
What sets me off is unjustified police brutality. It has been a factor right here within our own community. It is a factor throughout the United States. As I type, a man in Minneapolis, Minn., is dead and four police officers have been terminated for excessive use of force.
Within 10 days, there will be a new but similar news story. The geography will change but the circumstances will be the same.
A marginalized individual will be detained by law enforcement and eventually that individual will die. We are not talking about violent gun battles between armed robbers and overwhelmed police officers. We are talking about persons with a badge and limited skills at anger management confronting mentally incapacitated and unarmed persons.
The greater Chico community must not allow their deaths to be forgotten. In the near future, the community—including the soon-to-be-annexed Chapman and Mulberry neighborhoods—will have a chance to move forward. Chico Police Department Chief Michael O’Brien is retiring, and the city manager has appointed Deputy Police Chief Matthew Madden as interim police chief. A permanent selection will be a drawn-out process until the personal interaction restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 virus are lifted.
That selection has the potential to change the direction of the Chico Police Department. Or, it may end up being both an affirmation of current policy and a pat on the back for those officers who believe wearing a badge and a gun is, in essence, a license to kill.
Chico needs a police chief who understands that the mission is to serve and protect the citizenry, rather than serve and protect the “thin blue line.”
In my humble opinion, a massive attitudinal change is necessary within the Chico Police Department. That change will not come from within its own ranks. The next police chief must have no ties with the current department. The next police chief cannot be an apologist for unnecessary use of force.
Why not a woman as the next Chico chief of police?