Public Safety Commissioner responds to editorial
I write in response to your editorial dated July 20, 2017 and to provide your readers with accurate information regarding the Vermont State Police press policy.
The Vermont State Police is fully committed to transparency. It firmly believes the public has the right to know what the Vermont State Police is doing and how it is doing it. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and does a remarkable disservice to the men and women of the Vermont State Police and a disservice to the people of Vermont. Contrary to your editorial, the Vermont State Police works hard every day to balance the public's right to know and the privacy of crime victims while ensuring the integrity of investigations and an offender's Constitutional right to a fair trial. Between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017, the Vermont State Police issued 5,268 press releases - approximately 14 per day.
Thus, your assertion that the Vermont State Police's media policy restricts the public's right to know is belied by the record.
It is also interesting to note that your editorial did not include the full policy so that your readers could decide for themselves whether the policy strikes the right balance amongst these competing interests. I would therefore request you publish the entire policy, which is attached.
The Vermont State Police has also been fully transparent in revising its media policy. Although under no obligation to do so, it met with and had several discussions with and solicited input from the media advisory group - a group made up of leading print and television reporters and other media personnel, including the Vermont Press Association President. In many instances their recommendations were incorporated into the revised policy. Thus, to suggest in your editorial that the media was somehow denied its opportunity to provide the Commissioner of Public Safety meaningful input on the policy is misleading and disingenuous. The media's concerns and input have been and will continue to be fully considered.
In addition to keeping the public informed, the Vermont State Police policy does all it can to protect crime victims and their right to privacy. Too often crime victims are revictimized as they navigate through the criminal justice system and the media scrutiny that often accompanies it. The revised Vermont State Police media policy clarifies for troopers what victim information should and should not be made public. In this regard, a victim's identifying information is not disclosed in sex crimes,
assaults, burglaries, robberies or other crimes against the person. In other situations, a victim's or witness' identity may not be disclosed if it could jeopardize the safety of the witness or victim or impede an investigation. Victims of and witnesses to a crime always have the ability to self-identify if they so choose, but it should be their decision. The Vermont State Police media policy rightfully protects the identity of victims and witnesses to the extent practicable and consistent with the law. It is the least we can do for those who have been victimized.
As Commissioner of Public Safety, I am honored to serve the men and women of the Vermont State Police. I am also privileged to witness their daily commitment to keeping all Vermonters safe. It is their singular mission and they do it well. To suggest they - or I -- are not concerned about the public's safety or would deliberately withhold information that could negatively impact the safety of the public is simply false.
I would request that this letter be published unedited and in its entirety.
Thomas D. Anderson, Commissioner
Vermont Department of Public Safety
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