To the Editor:
In a recent edition, The Other Paper published an article about a South Burlington police officer pleading guilty to a driving under the influence charge.
In the article, the newspaper identifies the complete home address of this officer, and states he happens to live with three other police officers. The article would have been complete if the reporter had written that the officer left the driveway of his Hinesburg residence, and left it at that.
When the South Burlington Police Department issues a press release on individuals arrested, only the town that the individual lives in is identified, not the individual’s home address. This is done to protect basic privacy rights of individuals who have been arrested.
I am disappointed that a member of the press would behave so irresponsibly. I am further worried that, unchecked, such behavior has the potential to result in harm to individuals who have been arrested. Ethical journalism balances the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort to the individual. Given the current public sentiment toward public officials in the U.S., including documented incidents of vandalism to public and private property, and physical attacks, publication of their home address is a thoughtless and potentially reckless act.
Additionally, through the newspaper’s reference to a private arraignment versus public, he implies that the officer received special treatment from the courts. In Chittenden County, many first time offenses of this nature are reduced to a charge of negligent operation with a fine around $300. This officer’s charge was not reduced and his fine and court costs were twice what are usually assessed. The officer took responsibility for, and pleaded guilty to the crime he committed.
The implication of preferential treatment is inaccurate.
The South Burlington Police Officers’ Association hopes, in the future, The Other Paper will avoid exposing anyone, including police officers, to potential harm.
South Burlington Police Officers’ Association