Word on the street is Rob Bryn’s gone up to the spirit in the sky, which I picture as a giant teddy bear that wanders down those gold-paved streets passing out welcome baskets. Of course, there’s a good chance Bryn’s gonna confuse the great furry spirit with his arch-nemesis Pedobear, but once they sort through the mistaken identity, I’m sure they’ll be besties.
I know what you’re thinking: “Is Shredder really going after a dead guy here? Do I finally have a target for all the pent up bile that I usually just unleash on waitresses and cashiers who can’t do anything about it?”
The answer is no. And maybe a little bit yes. It’s always baffled me that we wait until people are dead to talk about what they represented and accomplished. And it’s disappointed me that most obituaries give such a watered-down account of people’s lives. And by watered down, I mean forcibly polite and generally meaningless. I’ve never read an obituary that so much as peeked at the line between inane and controversial. We borrow from a bag of stock phrases: “a good man,” “a devoted father,” “a hard worker.” And along the way the person’s true personality starts to blur; their memory is reduced to a narrow sliver of polite chitchat.
When I die—and I fully expect it to be some time in the near future based on information I acquired from a gypsy fortuneteller I met at the Gaslight—I’d like to think that people will dig a little deeper than “a good person.” I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve said or done. In fact, I’d like to think of myself as a larger-than-life character, and such figures deserve to have some salty language sprinkled into their remembrances.
And I think it’s the same with Rob Bryn. I don’t think Bryn would expect me to mindlessly swoon over him, which I don’t intend to. Nor do I intend to bash him.
We were two sides of the same coin, both doggedly fighting for what we perceive to be the public good. Only somehow that fight sometimes found us on opposite corners of the ring. He chose a hard job—particularly so during the Sheriff Pat Hedges era—one that pitted him against the media, and sometimes the public. His job was to justify, explain, and account for decisions made by other people. Again, during much of his career with the Sheriff’s Department, those “other people” were often times Hedges. Not an easy gig.
Personally, I couldn’t have done it. Most journalists couldn’t. But Rob always knew how to play the game: It was his job to control the message, and it was our job to try and get around him. And most of the time, he played nice. Rob might not have been stopping by the New Times office to trade recipes, granted, but he’s going to be missed nonetheless.
I suppose my primary criticism of the man could be boiled down to this: He was too good at his job. But at least you always knew where he stood on an issue. He didn’t ignore calls. Bryn, at least, had the courtesy to call and tell you he wasn’t going to give you the information you wanted, and the balls to tell you that if you filed a public records request he’d turn that down, too.
Withholding information from the public doesn’t seem all that heroic on the surface, but Bryn had his part to play in the relationship between media and law enforcement, and he played it with dedication. Despite our differences, I’m still marking Bryn down as one of the good guys in my book, even if at times I wanted to fling that book at him as hard as I could.
And while it’s reasonable to expect that a law enforcement officer would keep his department’s interests at heart, I don’t think that sentiment could be extended to one Tim Olivas, who recently announced that he’s leaving his position as chief of police in Morro Bay in favor of a position as undersheriff.
It’s not the fact of his defection that irks me. It’s the fact that a little more than a month ago, Olivas pressured—and we’re not talking about a light massage here—Morro Bay’s City Council into signing on to the Sheriff Department’s new quasi Narcotics Task Force, despite the fact that Morro Bay wasn’t a member of the last NTF and hadn’t been for seven years.
City Council members critical of the last incarnation of the NTF—which I think is one of the biggest wastes of public funds since $700,000 sidewalk improvements during a recession—advocated waiting a year. They didn’t want their money, energy, and reputation tied up in an organization with so tattered a reputation. But Olivas was forceful, and the City Council was won over.
It didn’t make sense at the time, why Olivas suddenly had such a chubby for an organization he’d shunned for the better part of a decade. Then, a month later, he jumped ship for the sheriff’s department. And that leaves me wondering whether he was representing the city of Morro Bay back in January, or whether he was just scoring brownie points for his new boss.
He’ll likely tell you that the decision was a boon to both. But had the public, and the City Council, known that Olivas was about to sign on to the sheriff’s payroll, they might have regarded his arguments with a degree of skepticism that was very much warranted.
Given that the decision was made based on biased evidence, the city of Morro Bay might want to re-evaluate its decision. Then again, if they really want to channel the heart and spirit of the Narcotics Task Force, getting cozy with biased information might not be such a bad idea. ∆
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