When will the Daily care?

Truth be told, bicycle thefts are a top priority for UMPD; always have been and always will be.

Gripe: To the University of Minnesota Police Department for not instituting bicycle stings to catch bicycle thieves. When will you “care”? Irony! Here is the meaning of the word according to Webster’s dictionary: “1: a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other’s false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning.” How ironic, then, that the Daily believes that the police department is standing by while bicycles are being pilfered from the campus.

Truth be told, bicycle thefts are a top priority for the police department; always have been and always will be. The police department’s community investigations division has been conducting bicycle stings over the past three years, and the statistics show it is working: In 2003 there were 330 reported bicycle thefts at the University. In 2004 there were 209. And in 2005 there were 145 reported bicycle thefts on the University campus.

Those statistics, although not what we want them to be, are improving. The police department’s ultimate goal is to have zero bicycle thefts reported. And through the efforts of community engagement and solid police work, we have lowered the number of bicycle thefts over the past three years. In the past month alone, patrol officers caught two bicycle thieves in the act. Surprisingly, there was no coverage from the Daily on that.

Clearly the efforts conducted by the police, as well as the Student Security Monitor Program, show that not only do we “care,” but show that preventing theft and catching thieves is a top priority for the police department. The better question would be to ask when will the Daily “care”?

The Daily has run an article detailing techniques that will prevent bicycle thefts. But when it comes to helping the police department catch these criminals, the Daily has been negligent at best: In 2005, a Daily photographer not only observed a thief steal a bicycle, he also took photographs of the crime in progress and called the police to report it (reference Case 05-202946).

However, when the photographer returned to the Daily’s newsroom to print the photographs he had agreed to give to the police, the Daily’s managing editor prevented him from sharing the photographs with the police department citing freedom of the press. More alarming still, the Daily stated it does not want to, ” … create the impression that we cooperate with the police in order to maintain a neutral appearance.”

The managing editor was not invoking constitutional rights, which we all can agree are sacred. In fact, the editor was blatantly violating the law and judicial precedence. We know this because of a Minnesota Supreme Court decision that involved the police and the Daily a decade earlier. It was determined that there is nothing in the Constitution that allows a member of the press to invoke constitutional rights to prevent testimony or evidence from being turned over to the police in order to aid in the prosecution of a crime.

The Supreme Court case cited above is Minnesota v. Knutson decided Nov. 15, 1994, against the Daily for refusing to provide pictures of a felony assault in progress to police investigators. Again, the real question one should ask is, when will the Daily “care”?

Sgt. Erik Stenemann is an investigator and Jason Tossey is part of the University Police Department’s investigative division. Please send comments to [email protected]