Wick Communications

When cops clam up

In journalism on May 15, 2015 at 8:08 am

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You may have noticed that the nation’s law enforcement community has developed a bit of a credibility gap. And that is too bad – for all of us. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but if we can’t trust the men and women in blue who carry guns and have the power to arrest us, our society is in a very fragile state.

One of the problems is that authorities too often dole out information as if they own it. The latest friction between police and the public’s right to know is in Massachusetts, where the Boston Globe has sued the Boston and North Andover police departments for records related to a half-dozen DUI charges against area police officers and one judge who is alleged to have stolen watch at the airport. You read that right.

The Globe argues that police reports, jail photos and booking logs are public information in that state just as they are in most places in the United States. Law enforcement claims wide latitude in keeping information secret, well, whenever officials want to do so.

I can’t tell you how that court battle will turn out, but I can sure guess who will win in the court of public opinion. Take a look at this spot-on editorial that ran in the Globe, GateHouse newspapers and elsewhere in March. How much do you love that newspapers are coordinating to move the needle on transparency? If you want to write an outraged editorial that is reasoned, forceful and perfect in every way, you could do worse than use this as a model. …

If we don’t hold people in power responsible, no one will. This isn’t the sort of thing that sparks outrage on Twitter. You wouldn’t see Facebook stories about the lack of transparency in Massachusetts if not for these newspapers making it so.

It’s more evidence that we work in a passionate, right-thinking industry that is crucial to democracy.

Clay

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