Putting the facts out there and letting the reader decide

Readers told us in the comment section last week that a story about New London police officers punching and kicking a suspect is not news. Let me explain how the story came about.

Somebody I know told me I should check out a police report in court. That happens all the time. Some tips are good and some are meant to be filed away, perhaps for future reference. I looked at the report on Hector Maldonado’s arrest and noted that one officer said he had punched Maldonado twice in the eye area and that his sergeant had kicked Maldonado in the same area as Maldonado resisted arrest. In almost two decades of writing about police and courts, I have never seen something like that in a police report. I wondered what Maldonado looked like after the incident, so I requested his inmate photo from the Department of Correction. The picture showed that on the day after the arrest, one of his eyes was black and swollen shut and he had a bruise his forehead.

I asked some questions of officials and learned that Maldonado had a long history of domestic violence. I talked to people in law enforcement on background who said that hitting somebody in the face is never recommended and that the police have enough tools, such as tasers, that they should be able to avoid hand or foot contact with the face in most situations. Now I don’t know exactly what happened at that scene, but the report did indicate the suspect, who was on the ground, kept trying to get up.

Our readers justified the officers’ actions by saying Maldonado was a batterer and that his victim surely has suffered more in the past than he did at that scene. As a reporter, I couldn’t take that position. I thought the incident should be made public, whether the suspect had a clean record or a long rap sheet. I simply put the facts out there and let the debate begin.

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