What’s in a name? Cops won’t say


By Chazy Dowaliby, editor, The Patriot Ledger and The Enterprise, Quincy and Brockton, Mass.

 Two times within two weeks police in the same southeastern Massachusetts jurisdiction decided to withhold the names of persons charged in high profile crimes.

It’s not the first time The Patriot Ledger or other GateHouse New England newspapers have encountered this unexplained refusal to name names. But seeing it twice within a 14-day period – relating to very high-profile incidents — had us asking for legal clarification.

The first case involved a series of incidents along Route 3 in Kingston. Passenger-side windows of five vehicles were shattered between March 17 and March 19 by projectiles fired from the side of the road.  Hundreds of vehicles use this main north–south artery and people were frightened. When State Police, working with Plymouth and Kingston police departments made arrests on April 2, identification was simply stated as a 19-year-old man and an 18-year-old man. Their names were not released because “the investigation is continuing.”  The names of the individuals were obtained at the arraignment the following day, and police never explained why they didn’t ID the men earlier.

 On Sunday, April 16, and even more puzzling incidence occurred when two teenage walkers in a multiple sclerosis fundraiser and an 80-year-old church volunteer were struck by a pickup truck in a crosswalk in downtown Plymouth. The woman driver then hit a wall.

 The police released the names of the victims, but declined to release the name of the driver, saying she had been “traumatized” and they did not want to subject her to publicity.  Since they did not arrest her, only charging her with driving to endanger, there was no police log or arrest record to view.

On Thursday, April 20, the Ledger hand delivered a public records request for a copy of the accident report to the Plymouth police. They gave it to us within hours. In searching her name we then learned that the driver had been found at fault in four previous accidents since 2006 – three of them in 2009 in Plymouth.

 Can police do this? Yes.

It all depends on how the person is charged, at what time of day the official arrest report is filed and a few other hairs that can be split numerous ways.

The good news about the two recent incidents is that we are no longer alone in putting pressure on law enforcement to release information. Our onlinecomments stream maintained its own spotlight replete with conspiracy theories, hometown connections and all manner of possible reasons names weren’t being named.


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