Police keep too quiet; Letters;

Peterborough Examiner (Ontario)

Bancroft, Ontario, Canada

This story about a man being attacked outside his Bancroft area home left readers with a couple of unanswered questions -including one big one. The man was beaten so badly by someone wearing a disguise and carrying an unnamed weapon that he had to be hospitalized overnight. Provincial police took it seriously enough to bring in their emergency response team and officers with police dogs scoured the area for hours. A man from nearby Carlow-Mayo Township was arrested the next day and formally charged.

But OPP officials aren't releasing his name to the public. They aren't even releasing why they aren't releasing the information. Normally, once individuals are formally charged the names are given out to the media in press releases or during routine phone calls with the duty officer. But not this time.

Readers should wonder why. Is it the local reeve that got charged? A fellow police officer? One of the officer's relatives? We don't know.

The lack of disclosure comes at a time when police forces across Canada are facing unprecedented scrutiny. It's been just over a year since Robert Dziekanski was shot and killed by an RCMP officer at Vancouver Airport. The officers initially tried to deny some details until an amateur video was posted online and shown around the world.

Closer to home, a Peterborough police officer pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct this month. He became enraged and verbally abusive to his wife after she looked at real estate without him being present.

He also went into the police evidence room while off-duty and got caught looking for evidence against him. A charge of improperly using his position as a police officer was quietly dropped by the Crown. The reason? Again, not disclosed.

During this month's Police Act hearing, the officer was accompanied by two other constables for support. He was sentenced to having 24 hours of his pay docked. But he was reassured this can be taken from vacation allotment or over-time so he will hardly feel the effect.

Police need to create firm rules on disclosure to the media, who relay the information to the public. Police are clearly not above the law. And if they occasionally aren't going to release the names of people who are charged, they should at least say why. Otherwise questions - including the big one; whether the public can trust them -will remain.

DAVID HATTON
Dennis Drive North York

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