LETTER FROM THE CHIEF OF POLICE
An article recently appeared in the Daily Local News which described an Attempted Homicide in graphic detail that occurred in a residential community for senior citizens in East Goshen Township, Chester County. Since the appearance of that article, I have received numerous inquiries from residents concerned about the dramatic differences in the information released by the police department in comparison to the graphic information that was in the newspaper article. The purpose of this letter is to provide an explanation to the citizens served by this police department.
It is important to understand that the contents of the article were based upon the charging document filed by the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department with the court system. In accordance with the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions, a police officer is required to provide specific detail in the charging document when criminal offenses are filed against an individual. Once the criminal charges are filed with the court system, they become public information. Subsequently, any person can access that information and publicize it in any manner that they choose. The newspaper article is a result of that ability.
Police departments across the nation are currently faced with the dilemma of demonstrating transparency while simultaneously protecting the right to privacy of victims of crime. It is a delicate balance that our department has sought to establish through the use of its press releases, website, and social media. Citizens who visit these sites will note that we include only general information regarding crimes and arrests that will help them to be aware of the criminal activity that is occurring in their community. However, it is equally important to note what information our police department does not provide to the public. We do not provide the names of victims, graphic details of crimes, or any information that would be embarrassing or harmful to the victim and their families. For example, we provide limited information for sexual offenses, domestic violence offenses, offenses against children, etc. This omission is intentional and is specifically designed to ensure that we do not further traumatize the victim.
The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department is cognizant that most of our calls for service occur when something has gone wrong in someone’s life. Our officers are consequently fully aware that they are interacting with citizens at a time when they are vulnerable. The information that we release to the public is based upon this awareness. We were therefore disappointed that any entity would choose to publicize such graphic information because it is unfair to the victim and the victim’s family. These individuals did not commit any crime and yet deeply personal details of their lives were shared with an entire community. The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department would like to assure the citizens that we serve that we will continue to exercise discretion in what information is released to the public. However, as indicated above, we cannot control what is disseminated by other entities. In summary, it is our opinion that simply because you can release information does not always mean that you should.
Brenda M. Bernot, Chief of Police