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Policing our attitudes

One of the first things you learn in the newspaper business — and, I suspect, in many others, as well — is that people are quicker to condemn than to praise.

It’s human nature. Newspapers constantly are accused of doing this— of reporting bad news more prominently than good, something every respectable news organization regularly hears.

That’s one reason we’re so heartened by the tens of thousands of totally supportive notes we’ve been receiving since our newsroom was raided.

One of the things we noticed is that a disproportionate number of notes have come from people in law enforcement. Like those in other lines of work, they obviously tire of hearing more about the misdeeds of a few than about the good deeds of the many.

This week presents a great opportunity to correct some of that by congratulating Hillsboro police on superb work in detecting and stopping an insidious scam in which credit and debit cards inserted into unattended gas pumps were scanned and card numbers stolen.

It’s a crime we might expect to happen in a big city but feel relatively safe from happening here. Yet here is where it happened. And here is where high-tech acumen from dedicated law officers put a stop to it.

That’s not the Hillsboro police action that impressed us most, however. A far less serious situation, which Hillsboro police still took very seriously, is what made us most proud of the people who devote their lives to making our lives safer.

Last week, a minor hit-and-run fender-bender occurred in the parking lot at Casey’s General Store in Hillsboro. When it was called in after the fact, police were busy with something else, but they not only accepted the challenge. They used the same sort of high-tech acumen they used in the gas pump case to solve the mystery.

Many police forces would have declined to investigate, saying the accident occurred on private property, happened hours earlier, and they were too busy to be bothered. Hillsboro police refused to find excuses for not investigating. Instead, they coordinated the efforts of multiple officers in finding a solution.

On-site video was consulted, but its view was blocked. Other cameras, including one they were wise enough to install that automatically reads license plate numbers, were consulted. They didn’t make just a few phone calls. They checked and followed vehicles. And they found the truth: Someone accidentally had backed into another vehicle at a time when parking was confused by the presence of a delivery truck and lack of clear markings indicating whether parallel or diagonal parking was preferred.

It isn’t a big deal — though it might be to the person whose vehicle accidentally was hit — but the police gave it the attention necessary to find the answers. They didn’t brush off a delayed report of an incident on private property that would have been hard to investigate. And they most certainly didn’t see it as a chance to ticket someone they didn’t like. In fact, no tickets were issued.

Rather, it simply was about finding the truth. What more noble goal is there than that? And afterward, they reported it all — completely and publicly, not in some super-secret report only a privileged few could read.

We imagine if we called to tell them “well done,” they’d answer, “We’re just doing our job.” And, to an extent, they’d be right. But in an age in which not everyone fully embraces the concept of “just doing the job,” routine acts of dedication deserve praise.

We still expect to get a ticket if we fail to slow to 30 mph promptly at Jade Rd. when driving in on 190th Rd. We don’t want anyone to look the other way if we make a J-turn on Main St. to park in front of Pueblo Viejo or if we do a rolling stop on Grand Ave. after dining at Panda Kitchen.

If we do any of those things and get caught, we’ll still mutter a few unpleasantries under our breath, but they’ll be targeted at our own stupidity, not at the dedication of those who probably would give any of us a warning anyway the first time we did such a thing.

Communities are “stronger together” when everyone — police, newspapers, politicians, average citizens — do their job and don’t insist on others doing favors or exacting paybacks inconsistent with their responsibilities.

It’s when people behave the wrong way that communities are stronger without them than they are with them. Together — not in some back room — we have to make those decisions.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 27, 2023

 

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