New London police stayed mum too long on shots fired

New London police reached a new low for duping the public when they made inaccurate and misleading statements to the press following the October 2010 murder of Matthew Chew.

The stabbing was drug related, police said then, and there was no threat to the public.

Don't worry, was the intended message. It was just drug dealers killing each other.

Of course, the Chew murder on a downtown city street was entirely random, and the killers were still at large when police made their reassurances to the public.

What made the deception worse, we later learned, was that the murder followed a number of serious incidents of violence downtown that the police had chosen to say nothing at all about.

Perhaps Matthew Chew could have been more on guard the night he was killed.

I recall that very dark period for city police public relations because I was thinking about it Saturday, when there were reports of gunfire downtown.

There were no injuries in the shooting.

Someone was seen firing a handgun near the corner of State and Washington streets about 2 a.m. Saturday and fled on foot.

On the surface, this doesn't seem like an especially remarkable incident.

What is worrisome, though, is that it took police some 16 hours to issue a press release.

It wasn't until 6:30 p.m. Saturday that Deputy Chief Peter G. Reichard sent a press release describing the incident to police reporters.

Earlier in the day, all press calls to police got no answers at all. Reporters were told that a press release was being prepared.

Meanwhile, phones in The Day's newsroom rang all day, as people called to find out what they could about the shooting. Gossip about a shooting downtown was traded all day on people's Facebook pages.

We now live in an electronically connected world, one with 24-hour news cycles. And taking 16 hours to tell the public that no one was injured in a downtown shooting is unacceptable.

Really, police should take the initiative to immediately issue a statement when there is an obvious problem, like a gun being fired on a prominent street corner downtown, while bars are letting out patrons.

They should tell the press something happened, not wait until they are asked, and then stall.

The public has a right to receive timely and accurate reports about crime in the city, especially at a time when voters are being asked to approve a budget with controversial allotments for police management salaries.

Maybe voters would like to see even more money allocated to police spending.

But they need all the facts about crime in the city. And they need it in a timely way.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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