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Chief Couch addresses allegations
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Dear Editor,
I am writing to you in response to a “Letter to the Editor” presented in the Friday, Feb. 19, edition of the paper by Michelle Coughlin of Phoenix, Ariz. Mrs. Coughlin’s letter is in reference to the current community upheaval surrounding the recent incident involving the High School Swim Team.  
I feel the need to address factual errors that were put forth as fact in Mrs. Coughlin’s letter. Mrs. Coughlin states that “For some unbeknownst reason, the police department of Great Bend has opted to turn a blind eye to the fact that a violent crime has been committed.”  She goes on to opine what type of reporting action should have been taken by the police.  
Mrs. Coughlin’s assertion is very plainly, very simply, false. When the Great Bend Police Department was initially contacted about this incident, officers quickly determined that the alleged incident occurred in a completely different jurisdiction, where another law enforcement agency had authority for investigating the case. Instead of simply telling the complainant to call the Ellsworth Sheriff’s Office, the Great Bend Police Officer took the time and effort to contact the Ellsworth Sheriff for her. After discussing the situation with the authorities in Ellsworth, the officer put a great deal of effort into beginning the preliminary interviews and helping the Ellsworth Sheriff’s Office get a jump on the case before they (the Ellsworth Sheriff’s Office) ever even set foot in Great Bend. As I write this letter, the case is still being investigated by the Ellsworth County Sheriff’s Office and will eventually make its way through the criminal justice process in Ellsworth County. That’s how the system works. Although I don’t know Sheriff Ploutz (of Ellsworth), it’s safe to say that he hasn’t turned a “blind eye” either. He’s been in Great Bend on several occasions, conducting his investigation. He has also made media appearances, discussing the fact that he is investigating the case and gathering evidence.
Since the incident, the community of Great Bend has obviously seen its share of tension. The Great Bend Police Department has been there every step of the way. We’ve done our best to ensure that members of the community could safely exercise their lawful right to protest, while also ensuring that safety and order were maintained in the community. I couldn’t be prouder of the conduct of the officers of the Great Bend Police Department during this most unfortunate time for our community.  
So, Mrs. Coughlin’s assertion that the Great Bend Police Department has somehow “turned a blind eye” to this incident is simply not true.  
I typically do not respond to criticism of the Department. Everyone has the right to criticize their government, and criticism of the Police Department will often come down to a matter of opinion. However, I feel it is important that these factual falsehoods be addressed. I want the citizens of Great Bend to know that nothing is more important to this Department than the safety of the people who live here, especially our children. The criminal justice system is imperfect, as is our society. We can’t promise that every single case will end up being handled the exact way that a citizen wants it to be, but we can promise that we care what happens to you and to your case. We are here to serve and protect the citizens of Great Bend, and we don’t “turn a blind eye” to any incident that might threaten the safety of you or your children.  Clifton Couch
Chief of Police, Great Bend