The sting of domestic abuse is one that keeps hurting — the incidents themselves, and the humiliation suffered in the aftermath.
The law allows a certain degree of sensitivity in the matter. Sometimes, the names of victims are not identified following an arrest and even during a court case. Obviously, when someone is in danger, that person must be protected by anonymity.
But there is a big difference between scenarios like those cited above and the requirements of the New York State sunshine laws in general. Just what qualifies as public information is clearly defined. Citizens are to know all the news, warts and all, with few exceptions and that includes arrests.
For decades, the Southampton Town Police Department was accused of running a maverick operation, until the Suffolk County district attorney finally stepped in. The local police repeatedly edited and suppressed news that wasn’t favorable to the force. We in the press witnessed it firsthand, and it wasn’t pretty. When the smoke cleared, convicted drug dealers were set free from jail because of the bogus practices of the department’s Street Crimes Unit.
That was then. But thanks in part to new leadership, things have generally improved and the department has been more open with the press.
That’s why it was so disheartening to learn of the recent attempt by the department to justify the failure to release the arrest report of an officer who was charged in a domestic violence case. Police cited obscure passages from arcane interpretations of the Open Meetings Law and claimed they were trying to protect the identity of the victim.
That’s nonsense. The cops know the law. The town attorney knows the law. We know the law. Arrests are a matter of public record. The cover up was bad enough, but certainly not the first time a well-meaning cop tried to protect a buddy. Trying to justify it was even more egregious.
To continue the charade does no one any good. It reflects poorly on both new Police Chief Steven Skrynecki and the department’s press liaison.
It was a mistake, and an apology is in order. Let’s leave it at that and move on.