Take caution

On the reprieve for the local syringe program and the publication of graphic footage in a police-involved shooting

All things considered, I was impressed with how the Chico City Council handled Tuesday’s discussion of the Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition’s needle access program. Indeed, for as agitated as some detractors became during the meeting—including a belligerent woman whom police escorted out—the panel kept its cool.

I was worried. Mainly, I was concerned the progressives might cave to the pressure of the NIMBYs who earned their medical degrees from Google University. You know, the folks who take anecdotal evidence as fact and think they know better than the actual MDs and other health officials from Butte County Public Health, Butte-Glenn Medical Society and Plumas County Public Health Agency. Those are but three of the agencies in support of NVHRC’s program, which is authorized by the state of California.

As Ashiah Scharaga reports in this week’s Newslines, a majority of public speakers on the issue supported continuation of the program. They drew jeers and guffaws from opponents, many of whom also assailed the progressives and laid out specious arguments.

Thing is, nobody has long-term documentation on local syringe litter. The fact that the Chico Police Department is getting more calls about needles could very well be attributed to heightened awareness in the community. Conversely, in terms of halting the spread of injection-borne viruses, including HIV and hepatitis C, there are reams of peer-reviewed studies that support needle access programs.

I get where the opponents are coming from. Nobody on either side of the debate likes witnessing the surge of injection-drug use or the detritus that accompanies it. It’s a scourge on people’s lives, including the residents who’ve become unwitting bystanders. The question before the council was whether NVHRC’s programs are making the situation worse. Considering the group follows best practices, the science says it is not. To their credit, however, the group’s leaders are willing to make improvements.

Councilwoman Kasey Reynolds’ motion for the council to work with them was a good compromise. I’m glad it was supported.

Graphic content This week, the CN&R was confronted with an ethical dilemma—whether to publish extended body-cam footage of the 2017 shooting death of Tyler Rushing. Reporter Andre Byik filed a public records request for it back in September, and we received it about three weeks ago.

As you’ll read in his story this week, Rushing’s family is suing the city of Chico for wrongful death. Among their allegations is that excessive force was used to subdue him. Specifically, based on findings of a medical expert, though Tyler was shot three times, they allege that what ultimately may have killed him was the Taser fired by an officer.

The footage is extremely graphic, so we deliberated carefully on its newsworthiness. Though it’s part of the public record, and therefore available to anyone who requests it, the footage hasn’t been released publicly. In the end, despite the gruesome nature of the content, we decided that it is in the public’s interest to be able to see a clear picture of the events.

We are including a link to the footage within the story on our website. Rushing’s father has seen the video. It illustrates a critical piece of his lawsuit, what he described as the “unvarnished truth” about his son’s demise. Still, readers should take caution.