Chief Doyle’s Great Failure

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In this article, we publish unedited emails between the author and Chief Doyle. These emails, as any email with a public employee, are considered public information under the Missouri Sunshine Law. Indeed, should any reader wish to do so, they may obtain them directly from the city through a Sunshine request. We are therefore not divulging private correspondence.

Since his arrival in Ferguson, Police Chief Troy Doyle has been on a publicity spree. He has attended neighborhood meetings and ribbon cuttings, co-hosted a campaign event regional safety meeting with county prosecutor Wesley Bell, and tweeted endlessly, albeit vaguely, about the department’s actions and policies. This has led many to believe that our police department had entered a new era of quality law enforcement, bolstered by great communication with residents. If only it were so. In fact, Doyle has talked a lot, but said almost nothing specific and verifiable. And he has declined multiple requests to upgrade transparency in the department.

Residents have observed that crime has increased in Ferguson. Some have moved away, and many others have considered it. Failure to communicate specific and verifiable information about the department’s work is a great failure. While the good feelings from seeing the chief at a neighborhood meeting will carry him for a while, the complete lack of actual information will ultimately eliminate the trust and goodwill he seeks.

On July 19th, Doyle tweeted about an incident at Walmart, in which two adults and two juveniles were arrested. We emailed him on July 21, asking for a report, and any other information which is public.

This was one of several attempts which The Observer has made since Doyle’s arrival to obtain reportable information, as his tweets have not provided sufficient details to allow us to give you the coverage you expect. His response: Lots of words, zero information.

We respectfully replied to Chief Doyle, again asking for cooperation and transparency to allow us to provide the Ferguson community with details about the work our police department is doing.

His response: Tough luck.

Chief Doyle apparently believes that flexing in tweets, while depriving residents of any information whatsoever on the specifics of offenders and crimes committed in our city, is “in the best interest of our department and the city.” We respectfully disagree. This is the sort of attitude which results in lawsuits, corruption, consent decrees, and such. While we appreciate that in the few days following a crime, police may be tight with information. But when charges are filed, that is public. By refusing to provide us with information, Chief Doyle makes it impossible for us to follow these cases, impossible to inform you who is doing these crimes and what consequences they ultimately faced. He is making public safety in our community a private matter.

That would be bad enough, if it was a consistent practice. But it is not. Today, we found out about a previous event at Walmart through a story on KMOV. So somebody is providing the television news with information which puts our city in a bad light, but the police department is providing The Observer with nothing but a wall of stone. Let me be perfectly clear: Contrary to what Chief Doyle says in the closing lines of his final email, we are not working together, and we do not have a shared vision. I am delighted to support our police department, and appreciate the service of the dozens of hard working officers who patrol our streets every day. But I have no common cause with any government official who does not believe that transparency is a debt he owes to every person he serves.