Back in September, an Alaska state trooper pulled over a newspaper reporter for the sole purpose of seizing his memory card from his camera.
The photographer, after all, had just taken photos of other troopers arresting a suspect in a shooting.
And that, apparently, was enough for Sergeant Michael Ingram to claim he needed the photos as “evidence.”
Brian O’Connor, reporter for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, offered to share the images, but, of course, that was not an option, so O’Connor handed the memory card over like a dutiful reporter.
The memory card was returned later that day after the newspaper’s publisher and editor contacted the Alaska Department of Public Safety to inquire why it felt the need to illegally seize memory cards.
The department assured the newspaper it would conduct an “investigation” because this was apparently uncharted territory for them.
And now, after the department completed its four-month investigation, which resulted in a 680-page report, the department issued an apology, admitting that they did nothing more but drop the ball.
“We dropped the ball,” said Col. James Cockrell during a meeting with the Frontiersman’s editorial staff at the paper’s Wasilla headquarters.
“He shouldn’t have seized the card, and he should have asked for consent,” Cockrell said.
As head of the troopers, Cockrell said he took the incident extremely seriously, as did the investigators who prepared the report.
“They did a very extensive investigation,” he said.
Cockrell said he couldn’t say whether Ingram faced any discipline, but did say the trooper was still on active duty and remains a trusted and valuable member of the department. He said the 12-year veteran of the statewide police force is “a really good investigator” who he would trust with the most sensitive of investigations.
“If I had something happen to my own family, he’s the one I’d want,” working the case, Ingram said. “He’s our (go-to) guy.”
Sure, whatever. Let’s hear what took place during that investigation that enabled them to reach the conclusion that most of us could have reached in seconds.
Well, they’re not saying.
The Alaska Department of Public Safety says it cannot release the report because “personnel records are confidential.”
So somewhere in Alaska there is a 680-page report that determined a 12-year veteran of the police department did not have a clue about the law regarding the right to photograph cops in public.
And neither did the rest of the department for that matter because now they are all required to undergo a four-hour “refresher course” to learn this basic fact.
And as far as the actual photos that were taken that day? Judging by what the news site has published, there is hardly anything compelling.
But now, according to both sides, there is deeper trust between the newspaper and the agency.
The real losers here are the residents who had to foot the bill for this four-month investigation, which resulted in nothing but a coverup and a weak apology, and probably thousands of dollars in tax money.