Sparks PD should stop hiding from the truth
There have been a couple of local twitches on the front of our year-long series on deadly police violence in the United States. We’ll combine them into a single editorial.
First, on Aug. 28, came the public admission that a member of the Sparks Police Department shot Darcie Latham. He shot her without knowing who he was aiming at or that the person he was shooting at was unarmed. It was a 50-50 chance, he was given bad intel, and we’re not second-guessing the decision, just pointing out the culpability on the part of local government when it comes to helping Latham reach a full recovery. While we acknowledge that it was a bad situation, and that the district attorney’s finding of justification is somewhat circuitous, our problem is the admission of deception from the Sparks Police.
“Initial reports indicated Darcie Latham was shot by her mother Monica Ritchey,” Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen said, as quoted by Reno Gazette-Journal. “However, as preliminary interviews took place, it was learned by investigators that a Sparks Police Department officer shot Mrs. Latham in the upper leg region.”
Initial reports contained that information because the Sparks Police Department released documents stating that Monica Ritchey shot her daughter. They’ve been available online here, http://bit.ly/Npjegh, since we ran the first installment of our Fatal Encounters series—a story about how government sets up roadblocks to prevent the public from knowing about deadly police violence.
When other media—namely Joe Hart at KRNV, http://bit.ly/1tXjHrF—followed up our report that Sparks Police were misleading the public, Sparks Police continued its evasions and omissions. What the hell is the problem with the truth over there, SPD? How does this reconcile with the sworn mission of police to uphold the law, including the laws regarding the public’s right to know? Six months knowing the truth was out there, but unwilling to reassure the public with transparency and honesty?
That was the whole point of one of Nevada’s foundational public records rulings, Donrey vs. Bradshaw, in which the Nevada Supreme Court found that officials should release information regarding ongoing investigations if the public had a heightened interest and should know the truth.
We’ll keep complaining, but it’s become apparent that Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen is making up the rules as he goes along, and transparency—with regard to a school shooting, or public records responses, or police shootings—is irrelevent to him. He severely undermined public confidence in his leadership and agency over the last six months with deception by omission.
The second thing, on Aug. 31, a suspect in a robbery at the Plumb Lane CVS was killed by Reno police. From a distance, this looks like the very reason we give our police officers the daunting authority and responsibility to protect Americans’ property and lives with guns. This was a tragic day for the family of the dead, but it’s also a tragedy for the officers’ involved and the officers’ involved families.
As we learned last week in our story about the psychological effects on police who are forced to kill someone in the line of duty,”Police Psychology,” http://bit.ly/1qx874a, a supportive community is the most important thing we can offer to the officers.
“We could do better. We could show them our support … support like ’You’ve been through a trauma, and you still belong to this group, to this team, and if you made the right calls on this, we’ll support you on them,’” said Reno psychologist William Danton.