In police matters, let transparency reign

June 19, 2020

The most important job the Cape Gazette has as a newspaper protected by First Amendment rights is to maintain a steady drumbeat in support of transparency. We are completely committed to the notion that a government of the people, by the people and for the people can function best when it is well informed with accurate information. Only then can the power of the people be effectively applied toward solving problems. It certainly and critically applies to widespread passions stirred recently by excessive force applied by police officers who have crossed the line.

Cape Gazette reporters and editors have observed and reported on policing locally and in Delaware for more than four decades. We’ve seen that the number of bad apples in the state’s policing ranks, although they do exist, is relatively small. Most take their jobs and responsibility seriously, and accept that they can find themselves in life-threatening situations. That is no small consideration, and we are grateful that the vast majority of officers see themselves as peacekeepers.

However, because police officers are authorized to use and carry government-issued deadly weapons, the bad ones that do infect the ranks can become extremely dangerous.

Deadly force ability makes transparency so critical in police matters. As legislation and policies about policing at the local and state levels are being considered, transparency should be at the top of the list. It has become far too convenient for law enforcement agencies from the attorney general’s office down to municipal police departments to use the “under investigation” excuse for not releasing information – for too long – about contentious issues involving police.

The sooner information is released, and the more complete it is, especially camera footage, the better the public will be able to understand what has happened and why. That philosophy will help protect the people and the police, and could expose problems before they reach the fatality level.

It’s said that sunshine is the great sanitizer. Let it shine brightly, especially when it comes to law enforcement. 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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