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MACHO MADNESS Shining The Light
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I've written a number of articles since starting my career here at the paper that some have thought have been somewhat critical of the local city government. Issues involving Oakdale's Museum Commission have attracted Letters to the Editor, and other subjects, among them the recent article I co-wrote with another reporter about the suspension of an Oakdale police sergeant, seem to have struck a nerve with some in the community.

Other articles I have written about this subject since then have done nothing to quell the issue; in fact, the city and the sergeant are both in court, awaiting the resolution of the sergeant's lawsuit against the city.

While I enjoy reporting all the positive news that that is generated by the city's actions, I - and my editor - feel it is important to provide the citizens of Oakdale with all the information I learn from the city. While it might not all be puppies and sunshine, it is actually the news that some may construe as negative that is actually considered important to many readers.

Especially news that impacts the city's finances. Like many small communities including Riverbank and Escalon, Oakdale has a city council and an active watchdog community that is fiscally conservative; they want to know where their taxes are going. In Oakdale, they are particularly concerned about city funds that are spent to settle lawsuits.

I spoke with a friend of mine not long ago who used to supervise the investigative unit I was in when I was a police detective. My friend, Cliff -actually, he was more of a mentor - retired a couple of years before I did, and went to work for a United Nations project in Bosnia training their national police force; quite an adventure, as he describes it.

We were discussing the old days, as friends often do, and we laughed about the paradox of my becoming a reporter. I brought up a specific journalist who worked for one of the local daily newspapers in the city where we used to be cops, and mentioned how he always seemed to know what steps we were taking in an investigation. He constantly, in our viewpoint, would impede our investigation by second guessing us. He would learn details of cases we were trying to keep quiet. He would re-interview people we had spoken with, and identify suspects before we were ready to obtain a warrant. He had built a web of contacts and informants that rivaled ours, and was basically a thorn in our side.

I mentioned how we used to curse his name, and pointed out the irony that he was someone I was now trying to emulate.

"We hated that guy," I reminded him.

I told Cliff, half joking, it was hard to look at myself in the mirror sometimes.

My friend laughed.

"He was trying to look in the places we were trying to keep dark," Cliff said.

He told me of some of his experiences in Bosnia, which he said was rife with official corruption. He told me of the importance of a free press in those fledgling democracies, how important individual reporters were in providing oversight on government officials.