They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the street, but that’s not always so, particularly when it comes to Whidbey Island first responders.
Never is that so clear as with the ongoing debate in Seattle over the interaction between a city police officer and Stranger editor Dominic Holden.
Last year, Holden was bicycling through the city and stopped to take pictures of a group of officers surrounding a single suspect. Holden was told to leave — he was on public property — that taking pictures was a form of harassment to officers, and he was generally treated with derision for doing his job. The altercation escalated when Seattle police officer John Marion asked how Holden would like it if he came to his newspaper and tried to interfere with his work.
A video of the incident was captured and people can decide for themselves whether Holden contributed to the argument, but the general contempt shown to the reporter is disappointing and, frankly, embarrassing for the King County and Seattle police departments.
Quite simply, they could stand to learn something from Island County’s finest, along with other first responders, especially local firefighters.
In seven years of reporting for Whidbey Island newspapers — and I’ve worked for them all — I’ve written about car accidents, house fires, plane crashes, environmental disasters, sunken and beached boats; all manner of criminal crises, including hostage situations, bomb threats, car chases, a manhunt for a double murderer — the list seems to go on and on.
And through them all, I’ve had just two negative encounters. The vast majority of police officers and firefighters are consummate professionals, and have earned my respect. At two recent and separate car accidents, Trooper Chris Merwin and Trooper Norm Larsen didn’t interfere with my job and took the time to respond to my questions with respect and consideration.
Langley Police Chief David Marks similarly demonstrated himself a man of transparency and a credit to the uniform Thursday at an incident at the middle school. Earlier that same day at an unrelated call, South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Jon Beck treated me with kindness and an explanation of the emergency.
Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Garden, Lt. Evan Tingstad, Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Chad Michael, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Mike Brown; this is just a short list of the many fine examples of open and friendly first responders that grace Whidbey Island.
They may not always agree with the news or even like the reporter, but their actions over the years have demonstrated their commitment to open government and a respect for the people they serve.