Friday’s television news report about a missing service weapon in West Springfield, Massachusetts that once belonged to newly appointed Mooresville Police Chief Ron Campurciani is shaping up to be, well, not much of a story.
And, frankly, the bigger story is in the town’s deafening non-response, especially at a time when its police department’s image matters more than any time I can recall since 2008.
A little background:
On Friday, a WSOC-TV reporter stood in front of Mooresville’s embattled police department, reporting on a story that aired in West Springfield a month prior.
The reports are about a year-old internal investigation into the whereabouts of a $400 handgun that once belonged to Campurciani while he was chief of the West Springfield Police Department. The probe hasn’t resulted in recommended action, and it doesn’t appear anything new has happened in the past year – besides Campurciani being named Mooresville’s police chief.
The stories have stirred-up mystery and suspicion, which is understandable and expected; it’s highly unusual for an officer’s gun to go missing. But an investigation was conducted, and Campurciani answered questions asked of him. He has answered the media’s questions when he’s been available, too, according to both reports. So it’s unclear to me what more there is to the story at this time.
But WSOC will likely pursue this story like rabid dogs now, and I can’t blame them. They will do so not because it’s a story much worth pursuing, but because the Town of Mooresville made it a story through its response – or lack thereof – on Friday.
Without including a response from the town in her story, WSOC’s reporter stated: “I have been told the police chief and the town public information officer are out of the office today and will return next week. We will be sure to bring you that response when we get it.”
That’s unacceptable. While the town’s public information office actually did send a response to WSOC, it was lackadaisical at best, which is probably why it wasn’t included in the broadcast.
In three, short sentences, Public Information Officer Kim Sellers referred WSOC questions about the investigation to the West Springfield Police Department, which conducted the 2018 probe. She acknowledged that Town Manager Randy Hemann “was aware of the allegations.” And then she told the news station to basically wait for further comment from the chief when he returns to town on Monday.
Based on Mooresville’s history alone, Sellers should know the kind of reaction a less-than-thorough response to the press is going to cause. And while Campurciani has been out of town with family for the holidays, he was accessible, at least, to the Mooresville Police Department, according to several MPD employees I speak with regularly. In fact, he was in constant contact with the department during his time away, including when the police-involved shooting occurred on Dec. 30, they say.
The standard policy of Sellers’ office – according to the town employees I speak with – is that they are prohibited from communicating directly with the people of Mooresville through the press. Any information – even ideas for positive news stories – must go through Sellers.
It’s typical, I suppose, for a public information office to want to control information, but it either prohibits employees from speaking to the press, or it doesn’t. They can’t have it both ways. Or they can, and they’ll end up with confused employees and sometimes being embarrassed on the 5 o’clock news.
Not only did the public, this time through WSOC, deserve a simple answer on Friday – which is presumably the job of the town’s public information office – but the police department deserved it, too.
We are days into a new year that follows one of the most – if not THE most – tragic, difficult and painful years in Mooresville Police Department history. Having a news crew camped-out in front of the department – again – wasn’t the most stellar way to start it.
We can do better.