Opinion: Seattle, King Co. officers could learn from Whidbey Island’s law enforcement

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 officers surrounding a single suspect. Though on public property, Holden was told to leave — and that taking pictures was a form of harassing the officers.

He was treated with derision for doing his job.

Seattle officer John Marion asked how Holden would like it if he went to his newspaper and interfered with his work.

A video of the incident was captured and people can decide for themselves whether Holden contributed to the argument. However, the contempt shown to the reporter is disappointing and, frankly, embarrassing for the King County and Seattle police departments.

These agencies could learn from Island County’s finest, along with other first responders, especially local firefighters.

During my seven years of reporting for Whidbey Island newspapers I covered car accidents, house fires, plane crashes, environmental disasters, sunken and beached boats and all types of criminal crises.

And through them all, I’ve had just two negative encounters. The majority of police officers and firefighters are consummate professionals and 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 time to respond to questions with respect.

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 who work on Whidbey Island.

They may not always like 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.

n Justin Burnett is editor for the South Whidbey Record. He was previously a reporter for the Whidbey News-Times and The Whidbey Examiner.


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