Local Editorials

Politicizing an accident

Criticism from opponents hoping to remove an incumbent from office is a normal part of the political process.

In fact, criticism of our elected officials and government agencies is a necessary part of any functioning democracy.

No elected official or agency is above reproach. Each should be subject to scrutiny, whether that scrutiny comes from political challengers, the media, voters or whomever.

When an incident such as the accidental shooting of McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy Eric Woods happens, questions should be asked, investigative reports should be examined.

Officer safety isn’t important just to the police agencies themselves, it’s important to the public whom police serve.

But the vitriolic charges made against the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department from the campaigns of political challengers Mike Mahon and Gus Philipott have been so off in tone, they distract from legitimate questions that should be asked about the incident at a police training range where Woods was struck by bullet fragments during a training exercise.

For weeks, whisper campaigns and gullible bloggers claimed that Woods was the victim of a hazing incident gone awry, that officers purposely fired live ammunition at steel targets as opposed to frangible ammunition to somehow intimidate Woods.

Those and suggestions that Woods was nearly killed in the incident should be put to rest.

Woods, who did not deserve to be dragged into this political theater, set the record straight last week, telling the Northwest Herald, “If there was any sort of hazing, it would have been my last day on the department and the first day of a major lawsuit.”

Again, it’s appropriate to ask questions – Why was Woods so close to the target that he got sprayed by fragments? Did the frangible ammunition work as designed? How will it be prevented from happening again? But to make the kind of unsubstantiated allegations that political foes of Sheriff Keith Nygren made is more than just unfair politicking.

It’s an insult to the police officers who were involved in what amounted to an unfortunate accident.

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