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Opinion

Deputy Putting Career On the Line to Leak Simple Memo to News 12?

A Column by the Editor
web posted August 8, 2014

COLUMN – If you watched WRDW News 12's report Wednesday afternoon you would think Deepthroat had just handed them the Nixon Tapes in an underground garage in Washington D.C. The story, headlined, "Questions surround Edgefield Sheriff's memo," had anchor Richard Rogers asking a reporter if SLED was going to take action against Sheriff Dobey for a one sentence internal memo telling his deputies to try to limit traffic stops to serious violations.

Of course, SLED is not taking any action because there is nothing to take action against. Traffic control is the main responsibility of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Deputies main focus is property and violent crimes taking place in the county. Traffic stops are not a priority in any sense of the duties of a deputy by law.

The memo to road deputies, dated July 23, 2014, said the following: “Effective immediately, no more traffic stops until further notice unless the driver is suspected of being intoxicated, reckless driver, or driving at a high rate of speed.”

Stop the presses! Major breaking news! The Sheriff made a policy decision that an obviously disgruntled employee is unhappy with. Although News 12 does not say who leaked this super secret document, they did say that, "he felt he was being hindered from doing the job he was hired to do."

I don't know who "he" is, but I sure wouldn't want to be him right now.

I have spoken to Sheriff's Captain Chris Wash about the memo, which was to remind deputies of their primary function in protecting citizens against property crimes by being visible in neighborhoods and communities, not looking to hand out tickets for minor traffic offenses.

That obviously ran counter to at least one deputy, so much so that they felt the need to "leak"  the memo to News 12, who only comes to Edgefield County when a story is too big to ignore or it gives them a chance to bash our Sheriff for something.

First of all, did News 12 ask why the memo was sent out to road deputies? Yes, and Capt. Wash and Sheriff Adell Dobey spelled out why the memo was issued. News 12 made a point to say that Sheriff's Dobey refused to do an on camera interview, then quoted him answering their questions. Wouldn't that be an interview?

Secondly, why is this even a story? Rogers quotes the law before asking if action would be taken against Sheriff Dobey, but doesn't bother to read the law and figure out this is a policy issue, not a legal one. Henceforth the same question, why is this even a news story? Unless you just want it to be for some reason.

Sheriff Dobey stated the memo was being taken out of context and that all deputies have discretion on whether to make a traffic stop or not for minor offenses. His concern is focused on reducing property crimes, burglaries, thefts, and drug problems more than worrying about if your tag light is out. Shameful, plum shameful of him.

I'm sure that the nearly two dozen homeowners in Stephens Mill who had their cars broken into Monday night would have preferred the three or four Sheriff's Deputies on duty covering the 507 square mile county being out looking for those with a tail light out on nearby Highway 25 than driving through their neighborhood preventing the crimes.

To show how absurd the whole situation was, the only person speaking to them on camera agreed with the Sheriff and saw no issue with the memo. But that didn't stop the crack reporter for pushing forward saying that sources, plural, at the Sheriff's Office feel they are being "handcuffed" trying to do their job.

For the record, there is no question that I have a very close working relationship with the Sheriff and his employees. Many of them, including the Sheriff, are friends of mine in addition to our professional relationship. Several are schoolmates from my childhood. That does not make me biased in my take of the situation, but does give me an insight of what is on the minds of deputies and members of law enforcement in the county.

This "report" on a "leaked memo" is an obvious attempt to make a mountain out of a grain of sand. I don't know who is dumber, the person leaking the single sentence memo or the one who swallowed the hook, line, sinker and boat to make it "news".

I do know this, thanks to News 12, every Edgefield County Sheriff's Deputy will be walking a fine line News 12 laid before them by using claimed "sources" from the Sheriff's Office. And all for a report on nothing. I hope they are happy. The last thing we needed was more pressure put on those who put on the uniform to protect us every day.

Stating the leaker was a "he" helps to narrow the field. This isn't Richmond County where there are hundreds and hundreds of deputies, there are about 16 on the road, total, not per shift. Taking out the females we get closer to a dozen. Since the deputies generally work an area, very few work "traffic" areas mainly being the Highway 25 corridor. That really starts to create a short list.

By producing this document the person offering it up, if it is indeed a deputy, has thrown his career out the window. It would be different if there was something legitimate, a violation of law or something seedy, but this was a simple one sentence policy memo put out for a limited time.

The "leaker" would have to know, as all employees are well informed when hired, they work at the pleasure of the Sheriff.
 
If the deputy is identified, Capt. Wash said "he" would be terminated just as fast as they can dial a phone to contact the person responsible. And, most likely, would lead to the Sheriff's Office seeking to have the officer's credentials cancelled so they could not work in law enforcement again.

I still come back to the same question, why was this simple memo even used to make "news" when it is in no way news worthy? Why the push to mention SLED and "possible action" against our Sheriff when they knew full well there was nothing to this? Is there an agenda behind WRDW's coverage?

After all, as a CBS affiliate, WRDW gave more time to a non-issue memo than the entire network has given to Obama's IRS scandal in the past six months.

One thing journalists have to consider when reporting the news is their source. As such, readers and viewer should also consider the source from which they gather their news. A network that refuses to cover real scandals for political reasons is trying to create a scandal where none exists at the local level.

I was told News 12 tried to walk back their 5 o'clock report for the 6 pm news, but the damage was already done. Even commenters to their own FaceBook page were backing Sheriff Dobey, not News 12.

As I said, you have to consider your source.

View the News12 footage and printed report here




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