This week the Standard-Examiner Editorial Board took a tour of Ogden's new crime center at the invitation of Police Chief Jon Greiner.
The impetus behind the invitation was a recent editorial in which the board called into question the need for such a center in a city the size of Ogden.
The two-hour meeting and tour were cordial as the chief, his administrative staff and Mayor Matthew Godfrey pointed out the functionality of the center and how it applies to Ogden's unique crime-fighting challenges. One of those challenges is the high number of parolees concentrated in Ogden's inner city due to low rent and proximity to one of the state's four halfway houses.
Still, it was obvious the recent editorial wasn't the only thing on the chief's mind. We heard the words "double-dipping," "prescription drop-offs" and "Hatch Act" numerous times during our tour. All were subjects of earlier editorials. Sometimes they were said in jest, but it was apparent the chief feels the newspaper, in particular the editorials, have been unfairly critical of him or his positions.
Sunday we are running a column by the chief in which he outlines the justifications for Ogden having a real-time crime center.
I won't go into detail about his other concerns, except to note I believe that our relationship with the chief started to deteriorate after he was elected to the Legislature. Regardless of whether this is something an active police chief could legally do, the sentiment among many of the board members is it wasn't something a police chief should do. Philosophically, we don't feel an administrative leader of a government entity should be holding an elective legislative office at the same time.
This goes for school superintendents, city managers or other leaders. It is fundamentally not a good practice. State lawmakers are supposed to be the guardians of our tax dollars, and should be free from any perceived personal benefit for this responsibility. Such arrangements can lead to conflicts whenever allocation of funding or distribution of grants comes into play.
Since Greiner is no longer in the state Senate, we consider it a moot philosophical point now.
Tension between a police chief and local news media isn't anything new. When the chief is as politically active, and also innovative, as Greiner is, there will be more opportunity for disagreements outside of the normal "police beat" coverage.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Police officers and journalists generally bat heads because they are so alike. Police officers may feel they are all that stands between social order and anarchy; and journalists believe they are all that stands between a free society and a police state. This ongoing philosophical battle is probably why our government works.
While I may disagree with the chief's methods and style sometimes, I don't question his motives. I believe he truly wants to make Ogden a safer place and contribute to its overall growth.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or email@example.com.