BOY did Sheriff Donny Youngblood tell US how the cow eats the cabbage this week. By "us" I mean we in the media.
In his Thursday press conference regarding the death of David Sal Silva, who died after an altercation with sheriff's deputies, Youngblood released results from a coroner's report and the department's investigation, took questions from the press and then excoriated the media for their coverage of the story. And he was absolutely right.
Check out some of the headlines regarding the Silva death:
"Kern County sheriff defends deputies videotaped beating man" -- Los Angeles Times.
This headline hit on Thursday after the sheriff had his press conference in which he outlined how many times and where Silva was struck. According to the pathologist, Silva's body showed no signs of being struck by a baton on the head or neck. The sheriff said that all strikes were consistent with department policy. Furthermore, the coroner reported that the death was caused by Silva's medical conditions, aided by the drugs in his system. What part of that has Youngblood defending a beating?
"Beaten Bakersfield man's death accidental" -- Ventura County Star.
Again with the beating!
"Kern residents -- fatal beating didn't happen in a vacuum" -- New America Media.
"David Silva's death at the hands of Kern County police sparks controversy" -- Huffington Post Latino politics section.
The Huffington Post flat-out convicts the police.
And my favorite: "Muted outcry over Kern County beating: 'We've gotten used to a lot here'" -- Los Angeles Times.
In this despicable piece, the writers (one of whom lives in Fresno, and according to her Twitter feeds really thinks we're a bunch of hayseeds) accuses all of Kern County of knowing that a man was beaten and not caring. The writers report that the "case has brought the FBI to Bakersfield" but don't mention that the FBI didn't just show up on our porch. The sheriff asked them to come! Then, based on two interviews, the writers declare that "residents have been largely silent."
We were? We have been? We are?
I guess the writers don't listen to much talk radio or read the news blogs! What exactly did the L.A. Times expect us to do before the facts were out? Take to the streets like they do in their neck of the woods? Throw molotov cocktails into the Sheriff's Office, just to find out later that the police didn't kill the guy?
Even if you don't believe the sheriff's report, even if you believe there are still questions to be answered, what do these outsiders want you to do? It's almost as if the media wanted to incite something, isn't it? As if they hoped to create discord and distrust between our community and our officers. For what? So they would have more to write about?
Look, the last few years have definitely brought about a changes in my naive assumption that the cops are always right. I've seen too much.
But I've also given up any notion that modern journalism is unbiased and motivated by truth. That's not to say there aren't good and responsible writers out there, nor that sometimes good journalists just get it wrong.
But in this case, in creating a reality that didn't exist, these reporting agencies fractured the people's trust in their law enforcement, put deputies at risk due to multiple death threats, and painted our community in a false light.
I agree with the sheriff. Shame on you.
-- Inga Barks, who hosts a talk radio show on KNZR AM 1560, is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are Barks' opinions, not necessarily The Californian's. Next week: Ric Llewellyn.