Opinion

We want answers, too

It’s often said that in times of crisis, time seems to move in slow motion. Memories are altered, rumors fly and the truth becomes a muddled casualty of consequence.

That’s exactly what happened on March 12, a week ago today, when Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies and the Kitsap County SWAT team congregated at the Peninsula Glen Apartments. The word was that North End burglary suspect Christopher Berg, 23, was inside one of the apartments.

During the two-hour standoff, there were some mistakes made. Today, at 9 a.m., the agencies involved — the North Kitsap School District and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, are scheduled to get together to review the situation.

The question that comes immediately to mind is whether or not the school district and sheriff’s department acted with the students’ best interests in mind. Should the schools have been put on lockdown to ensure that no student was put at risk? Did the district follow its own policy in regard to student safety?

These are questions that deserve to be answered. And they likely will.

Behind closed doors.

Despite a request for access to the meeting of two agencies, the Herald is uninvited. The decision ultimately rested with NKSD Superintendent Gene Medina, according to NKSD spokesperson Chris Case.

The phone calls were flying fast and furious as of noon. Case argued the point that people might not be as candid as they normally would if there were a reporter in the room and the fact-finding mission would be all for naught.

We believe that is a two-bit excuse to discuss policies and procedures that affect our readers under the veil of secrecy — in the dark, with the doors locked.

On our readers’ behalf, we argued for access because we believe we’re entitled to first-hand answers — not ones filtered through second-hand accounts.

Case said she’d discuss the situation with Medina. Another waiting game ensued. “No” was Medina’s final answer.

Just to recap the situation, here’s what happened last Wednesday: Authorities had a warrant for Berg’s arrest but they did not have permission to go inside the apartment where they suspected he’d been couch surfing. Under the watchful eyes of a throng of onlookers, the authorities waited for more than two hours while the request to get inside the apartment maneuvered through the legal system.

The Peninsula Glen Apartments, it should be noted, are located on Hostmark Street, adjacent to the North Kitsap High, across the street from Poulsbo Middle, and a hop, skip and jump away from Poulsbo Elementary.

Authorities surrounded the apartment building at 2:29, a mere minute before neighboring schools were let out for the day.

When students were released, school officials decided to keep the students at Poulsbo Middle until they received notification from the sheriff’s deputies that the area was safe. Students at the high school were let out on time. Students at both schools who rode the buses were kept on the buses until it was deemed safe for the buses to leave. Students from the high school who walked home were instructed to walk behind Poulsbo Middle.

As children were leaving school, they saw sheriff’s deputies surrounding an apartment complex — an apartment building that some of those children lived in.

While the authorities were waiting for access to the apartment, traffic — both foot and vehicle — continued as normal on Hostmark Street. It wasn’t until the SWAT team arrived that those on the sidewalk were told to cross the street and stand behind the fence at Poulsbo Middle and vehicle traffic was diverted through the middle school’s parking lot.

We understand that authorities were stuck between a fugitive and a hard place. They had no choice but to act on the most current information they had.

And we applaud the agencies for getting together to get answers. We just want access to the same answers.

Not allowing the press to be present is unconscionable. If ever there were a situation that calls for a little sunshine to creep in, this is it.

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