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Styf: Tell us what happened in murder at Three Oaks, Crystal Lake Police

Several people are in custody after Crystal Lake police discovered the body of a 51-year-old man floating in the water at Three Oaks Recreation Area.
Several people are in custody after Crystal Lake police discovered the body of a 51-year-old man floating in the water at Three Oaks Recreation Area.

There was a death, there were arrests and there were charges.

We don't know a ton more.

More than a week ago, the body of a 51-year-old man was recovered from Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake.

Three men have been charged with beating Robert L. Krikie Jr., stealing his wallet and hitting him in the head with a rock and killing him.

It's time for Crystal Lake Police to tell us more.

The work that our public officials do, from politicians to police, is public and should be scrutinized.

And while our attention has been focused on COVID-19 over the past weeks both here and across the country, this alleged murder happened in Crystal Lake and we don't know more than the minimal initial details.

We have asked for more details, putting in a Freedom of Information request for the police records and relevant 911 calls.

But the Crystal Lake Police Department didn't even send a redacted police report in response, saying it denied the requested report based on a FOIA exemption which says that releasing further information would interfere with the proceedings if any information was released.

Southeast Emergency Communications sent us a similar denial while refusing to send the 911 calls in the case.

The problem?

That's not how this works.

While the police and state's attorney's office would like to control the flow of all information, the public deserves answers on what happened at Three Oaks. It's a matter of public safety.

What do they know? What caused a man to be killed?

That's why state law says that information like police reports and 911 recordings are public information. There are very narrow reasons why small portions of reports can be redacted. But to deny a police report in full is an egregious violation of public trust.

Not far different from making all police calls in Crystal Lake encrypted, as the department has done within the past year. Police always have had the ability to switch over to a private frequency when it's necessary, but for all police calls to become encrypted like Crystal Lake's police have done is again telling the public that it's right to information is not important.

In the past, any citizen could monitor police activity in their area with a scanner or online, items of legitimate public interest. Now, none of it can be monitored by anyone outside of law enforcement.

If you recall, the McHenry Police Department attempted to deny access to a police report related to the pedestrian death at Home Depot last year. We fought that denial and ultimately the record was released.

In the Three Oaks killing, we plan to do the same. Because we believe strongly in informing the public. And, in recent years, many McHenry County police agencies have often become less and less willing to give out information.

Some, like Crystal Lake Police in this case, deny requests using the same narrow exemption, saying it applies on a much broader scale than is reality.

None of that means they're bad people or they don't do important work. They do and we appreciate it. But it's also our job to hold them accountable for their decisions.

We're your advocate in public records denials. And despite the COVID-19 virus that is keeping many of us home, changing how we operate and changing how you do too, we won't stop fighting for you.

• Northwest Herald Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com or 815-526-4630.

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