Editorial: Officers’ duties tough, but public still has right to know about alleged murderIn towns with populations less than 1,000, word travels fast. In towns as big as Dickinson, word also travels fast.
In towns with populations less than 1,000, word travels fast. In towns as big as Dickinson, word also travels fast.
However, those fast-traveling words often get skewed on their flights from one door to the next.
Therefore, it’s curious how law enforcement decided to protect and serve the community after an apparent murder in Belfield on Tuesday.
Authorities in southwest North Dakota charged 41-year-old Dirk Huber with murdering the mother of his child, Nicole Lynn Radebaugh, in her Belfield apartment. Wednesday, the day after the incident, rumors were circulating as to what occurred. Social networking sites were abuzz and people were calling The Press office for answers (and sharing the scenarios as to what happened...or at least what they thought happened). Why were they calling? They wanted answers.
Answers the media was trying to get. Answers that were very difficult to get.
People were scared. Word was there was a murder suspect on the loose.
Well, they were right. There was.
We don’t claim to have law enforcement experience and maybe the Belfield Police Department had some deep-seeded reason to completely ignore requests for answers, but it seems the logical thing to do would be to get information to the public as soon as possible. They were undoubtedly busy but it would have taken 2 seconds to answer when asked, “Can you tell us if there is a need to be concerned about a suspect on the loose?”
Why not put a description of the vehicle and person you are searching for in public hands quickly, before a suspect has time to travel too far? More eyes mean more tips and maybe you’d catch the guy faster.
Once the description was released, an officer said there were many reports of possible sightings.
Law enforcement brought in planes and back-up to search the Badlands for Huber. We, and likely many others, were relieved he was found Friday evening.
Maybe they wouldn’t have needed so many resources or put so many officers on foot in rough terrain if a description was released immediately. The search went on for about 32 hours after the first tip came in, a police chief said.
Answers also calm people’s nerves or let them know if they need to take precautions. If someone who could allegedly suffocate another human-being is on the lam, people deserve to know.
The Press urged, prodded, called half a dozen law enforcement offices in southwest North Dakota, not to mention the FBI, and dozens of others. With unsuccessful calls, reporters stopped at the police department and kept getting, “we’ll hold a press conference later.”
Community members provided more information than those in charge of the investigation.
Of course, a level of secrecy in criminal situations is expected but this was over the top.
Once the police finally decided to hold a 5 minute press conference they had little new to share; besides “a suspect is on the loose.” They would not answer any questions.
Tragedies in small towns are tough on everyone, including the officers — officers who are often put in difficult situations. However, protecting and serving is still their duty. Part of that is keeping the public in the loop.
The Dickinson Press Publisher Harvey Brock and Managing Editor Jennifer McBride are on the Editorial Board. Send letters to the editor to email@example.com or share your opinion here, at areavoices. Letters are limited to 400 words. Include your name, town of residence and phone number for verification.