Crime Stoppers can’t afford appearance of political misuse

Published 7:05 am Friday, March 23, 2018

Frankfort Crime Stoppers is a critically important tool for getting bad guys off the streets and keeping our community safe.

That makes it imperative for the program’s handlers to avoid even the slightest hint of politics.

In response to a reader’s question submitted for the popular “You Asked” feature in our Friday editions, Managing Editor Josh Bergeron found that Crime Stoppers ads, prominently featuring Franklin County sheriff candidate Chris Quire, suddenly reappeared on Frankfort Plant Board cable channels last month after a two-year hiatus.

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From Feb. 10 to Feb. 25, at least 66 30-second ads ran on ESPN, A&E, CNN, HGTV, Fox News and TNT, according to a Plant Board official, with more scheduled for this month. No Crime Stoppers ads aired in 2016 or 2017.

The aim of the increased advertisements is to boost exposure for a program that solicits and accepts anonymous tips on unsolved crimes, said Police Chief Travis Ellis.

Perhaps, but it’s hard to ignore the timing of the ads, which are running just months before the Democratic primary for sheriff, in which Quire, the police department’s public information officer, is challenging incumbent Pat Melton.

When asked why the ads hadn’t run previously, Ellis said he couldn’t speak for decisions by prior police chiefs.

Perhaps the timing is just coincidental, but the fact that the ads prominently feature Quire puts a cloud of suspicion over the program that is unnecessary. The ads could be just as effective without using Quire’s name or image.

Quire is an impressive young lawman who is waging a formidable campaign against a vulnerable, longtime incumbent. Melton’s odd response to felony criminal charges against his chief deputy – first suspending him, then reinstating him days later with full pay and benefits while he supposedly performed only administrative duties – raises serious questions that the sheriff has not adequately answered. A recent high-speed, multicounty chase of a misdemeanor suspect while the sheriff’s wife was along for the ride also demonstrated poor judgment unbecoming of a veteran lawman.

Quire, who has Melton on the defensive, can run an effective campaign without the help of free publicity from a Crime Stoppers program that should rise above partisanship.

The State Journal