Pssst…Do you Wanna Know a Secret?

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in our April 18, 2012 Print Edition.

In what was one of the most bizarre twists in local politics, this week, the Columbus Police Department saw fit to shoot an individual and not notify the community or the media.  That’s right, campers – someone just got shot by the police, but “move along folks; nothing to see here.  Just a little shooting!  Just keep moving and it will all go away.  And, hey, don’t worry about the other guy, who fled the scene, surely he will show up, sometime.”

Regardless of whether the shooting was justified – and The Real Story hopes that it was – why keep it a secret?  It is not acceptable to say, “Hey media dudes, call us and we will tell you if something happened.”  This was not the usual penny-ante minutia that normally passes as news in our community.  This was not the regular parade of petty crime that is presented and documented as major events.  This was a police-involved shooting!

And, does anyone take the time to notify the community? No! But wait, just when you think the insanity cannot get any worse – you guessed it, boys and girls – it does!

The next morning, your humble reporter took it upon his weary self to drag his carcass to the Columbus Police Department (CPD), to get the official word.  This seemed more appropriate than making a telephone call to the CPD’s Public Information Officer, Glenda Buckhalter, and asking, “Hey, I work for a local newspaper and can you advise me if any of your personnel shot anyone in the a@@, last night?”

Knowing that would be inappropriate, I just asked her what happened.  And, what happened next is not and was not Ms. Buckhalter’s fault.  She read a brief statement from a hand-written note.  Yes, for a moment, I was transported back to the fabulous fifties, when Eisenhower was President and the police didn’t tell the community anything about what was happening, because it was not the people’s business.

It would have been funny, if not for these facts: 1. a person had been shot and, according to WCBI, the family is saying he may suffer paralysis; 2. a police officer is sitting at home, awaiting the outcome of an investigation; and one is saying anything to offer any comfort except to say, “he shot someone for not obeying an order from a police officer”.  Those are not The Real Story’s words.  They came from the police department.

Quicker that you can say Gardner vs. Tennessee, the red flags should be popping up for everyone in the community. You see, Gardner vs. Tennessee, says something about not shooting fleeing felons.   However, we really know very few details and have been told very little; no one had the decency to say, right after the shooting took place, “A police shooting occurred and we must complete an investigation.”  Nope.  The media had to ferret out the information, themselves and, from what can be gleaned from published accounts, each media outlet seems to have received a slightly different story.

The government is always “whining” that the media is unfair – that they only report bad news.  But, here is a suggestion, “government man”, stop doing goofy stuff and the media will stop calling you goofy.  It is as simple as A-B-C.

When talking to Chief McQueen, he was contrite in his apology about the delay in providing information, and did say that he had been very sick and had to go home, that day.  That is understandable – something happened beyond your control; however whoever he left in command did not do him or the community any favors by not alerting the media.  Period.

And, unfortunately for McQueen, even though he may have delegated his authority, he cannot delegate his responsibility.   He shirked his responsibility to the media when he left someone with no training and no police experience in control of the press release.  She failed, not because she is a bad person, but because she was not trained and equipped for the job.  To the best of our knowledge, she is a great employee, but was set up to fail by not being trained or prepared.  That failure lies at the feet of McQueen, even though it was not his choice to be sick.

In the end, the police owe it to the community to be transparent.  And, like it or not, part of that is dealing with the media.  If you cannot figure this out or deal with the problem, then get out of the business.  That is cold, but it is true.

The media, especially those who have no police training, are at the mercy of the police department.  The authorities can tell people they seized 88 “bazillion” dollars in drugs and, unless you have police training or you have sold “dope” before, you have no clue as to whether they are telling you the truth.

However, all of that pales in comparison to not notifying all of the media and, therefore, the community to the fact that there had been a police shooting.  To be blunt, it is plain wrong.  In the meantime, I guess we have to call the police department every day and ask, “Hey, did you guys shoot anyone last night?”

Joseph B. St. John

Mr. MoJo Rising

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The Real Story for the Golden Triangle and North Mississippi. Always the truth... No Compromise. Changing the community one story at a time! You make the news... We keep it Real.

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8 Comments on “Pssst…Do you Wanna Know a Secret?”

  1. Bren Says:

    It was convenient for McQueen to go home “sick” so he didn’t have to deal with the media….the public is not fooled by his control issues & dictatorship style of leadership. We all know he has something to hide…or he would stand up in front of the people he serves and willingly give information….but he does not have our best interests at heart…only his selfish desire for power! We the people are the only ones who can make changes in Columbus….and we need to get a plan.


  2. Ashli Williamson Says:

    Reminds me of the song The Night The Lights Went Out In Ga by Vicky Lawrence. Seriously, it takes me back to the 50’s and 60’s. Kinda scary!


  3. Glenn Palmer Says:

    The old shell game is alive and well in Columbus, the Friendly, but Good Ol’ Boy, system. I remember when Councilman Mickens first ran for his job. One of his nearby neighbors also ran for the Dem slot. As soon as Mr Mickens won, 2-3 days laters, his previous competitor, instead of lining up behind Mr. Mickens and their party, switched his support behind the opposition party candidate(Republican and white female who lived nowhere near their neighborhood/district. This was made evident due to the support sign for the Republican candidate which was openly displayed in his yard. I remember asking Mr. Mickens what happened there and he just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. The other candidate was/is reportedly a “man of the cloth,” but his actions demonstrated his “true self,” which wasn’t very pretty or in the best interests of the district for which he attempted to be elected to support. When you look at the tenseness and obvious hostility from Mayor Smith and ANYONE who questions him and/or his decisions, you see the real side of Mayor Smith and his pawns. “My way or the highway” seems to be his management side (runs city like a Linebacker on Roids). Can 2013 come quick enough???????? But only if the people do their jobs, research, teach themselves about happenings and processes, and vote their consciences. We can decide to save ourselves or let Mayor Smith continue his ‘you scrath my back, and I’ll scratch yours” and watch the City remain the laughing stock of NE MS. We are better than that, people, so stay informed and take your responsibilities to heart and Mind. Be informed, vote early and often………………..


  4. Thom Geiger Says:

    Chief, I’m glad to see some of that fiery independence that was Roger’s hallmark in the early days of the Packet. I know there’s an unwritten rule amongst media outlets that they go easy on each other, but I went to high school with Birney and some of his siblings. Two of those Imes ended up running the Dispatch after their father and neither, in my personal opinion, earned the title of journalist or publisher. I stand by my position that this city’s daily newspaper is run more like a hobby than a full time job.
    What I can say is that I have seen, too many times, when either the publisher or a representative of the city’s daily newspaper has been on the scene when a private citizen was threatened by city officials for no more than exercising their first amendment rights, and no mention was made or issue was raised by the paper. Still, when any move has been made by local officials to limit the rights and privileges of the media, the daily has been front row in the protest.
    Again, and it is only my personal opinion, the news media’s enhanced rights and privileges are only benefits of its responsibility to inform the public, but the right of the private citizen to know can’t be trumped by any media’s privilege. When private citizens can be barred from a government meeting and commercial, private businesses such as a newspaper are allowed full access, then something is wrong. Then the media has become a public relations arm of the government, not an independent watchdog of the public right to know what its government is doing with its resources, on its time and in its name.
    If this endeavor pans out and becomes an institution in our community, I hope you and TheRealStory don’t lose sight of the lone private citizen and his/her rights, including the right to free speech and the right to know what the government is doing. The first time you give in to playing the game is the start of the transition to being just another vanilla mouthpiece for city hall.


    • The Real Story Says:

      Thank you and we will never forget are calling….trust me!!


      • Street King Says:

        The one thing that bothers me about our media is that it’s all about the negative. It’s about McQueen did this or McQueen didn’t do this or everything that goes along with city hall. One thing I wish the media would do is put it a positiive story concerning the police department for every story they do about McQueen or the Mayor. There are guys at the PD that do good things and good work everyday, but that doesn’t seem to catch the media’s attention. There is a good story here and there but nothing on a consistent basis. If anyone should know this it’s the Mojo himself. The City of Columbus has a good police department with some good personnel it just needs more effective leadership. That’s not all on McQueen. Mojo should also be an expert on the pressures that can be put on that position by folks uptown. With a 4-2 always hanging over your head you’ll do things out of survival at times. My challenge to the people of Columbus is not to judge the officers of Columbus Police Department by the ones who run the show.

      • The Real Story Says:

        TRUE…..Lots of Great officers on the CPD!!


  5. Thom Geiger Says:

    Street King, I’m older than some and younger than some, and I’ve known LEOs in Miss. my whole life (father was a beat cop, grandfather was a deputy sheriff). I’ve never seen a department or office that didn’t have a little of the bad and, more often than not, a lot of the good.
    Unfortunately, Columbus has a history of bad behavior in the CPD, but it’s not fair for officers who weren’t there and weren’t a part of it to live and work under that cloud. There are folks at the PD who go to work every day to earn a living, which is what working people do. They try hard and work hard. I’ve seen the usual suspects on the force who are in the profession for the wrong reasons, but fortunately they are in the very small minority.
    One thing that needs to be done, and should have been done ages ago, is for politics to be taken out of the department. There’s no room for politics in EFFECTIVE law enforcement. The interests of the public and the interests of politicians are incompatible.
    Look carefully at the people sitting at the big table and think about this, when Columbus was doing better financially than it is today, some of those same people could have seen to it that the PD was taken care of in terms of personnel and equipment, but a personal vendetta against a former chief got in the way, a petty juvenile tantrum was thrown and huge opportunities were wasted. Now the PD has been playing catch up ever since. And what guarantee do we, the people who pay taxes in the city, have that the same people won’t do it again, maybe with the PD, maybe with the schools or the CL&W, the CCVB or the planning & zoning board?
    A lot of us know not only what it is like to have to work for a living, but what it is like to work for people who would throw you under the next bus without a second thought. A study by an Ivy league university says CEOs/senior management types have much in common with amoral sociopaths. It’s the ability to make those instantaneous emotionless decisions that would keep the rest of us up at night that hierarchies look for. Not so good for the people who work to make the wheels turn and things happen is that the executive types (and sociopaths) have a strong sense of self-preservation.
    My best wishes, and I’m sure the same from other people out here, to the men and women who suit up every day to earn a living and do it the right way. Hopefully, one day, the day will come when they will get the credit, help and resources they need and deserve every day to take care of us. That includes a city leadership and department management that really care and are less political and more public service minded.


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