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Police try to wiggle out of "no threat" murder proclamation

New London police claim they have been vigilant in "monitoring the behavior and locations of all suspects" in the Oct. 29 downtown murder of Matthew Chew.

Then you wonder why one of the suspects remained at large even for a while Tuesday.

"Police detectives are actively searching for" suspect Marquis Singleton, police said in a press release Tuesday morning, issued after one of the suspects in the Chew murder was taken into custody.

Later in the day, police said four more suspects were in custody and Singleton's family was facilitating his surrender. By early evening, they said all six were in custody.

I point this out because it highlights the police department's - and by that I mean Chief Margaret Ackley - misrepresentation to the public about this serious crime.

The day after the brutal attack on Chew on a downtown city street, police issued a carefully crafted statement in which they said the incident was "drug related" and that there was "no threat to the public."

In other words, the department, apparently in full public relations mode, tried to suggest it was another incident of drug dealers fighting each other, and the public need not worry. Come on downtown, they might as well have said.

Instead, the attack on Chew was evidently random, and the public had every reason to be on guard. Police should have been issuing warnings, not reassurances.

On Tuesday, in what I might say is the most irresponsible and embarrassing police press release I've ever seen, police admitted that the attack on Chew was random.

"There was no previous relationship between the victim and his assailants and no apparent motive for the attack," they said.

And yet they went on to smear the victim again, saying he had been "negotiating the purchase of narcotics" that night by way of his cell phone.

This detail, the only one about the crime included in the press release, was made only to try to exonerate police for the horrible mistake of calling the crime drug-related in the first place.

And really, even if they did initially think it was drug-related, there was no good reason, other than public relations, to say so. After all, they didn't share any other details.

So maybe Chew, a hardworking young man living and working downtown, was planning to make a recreational drug buy that night. Maybe he was jaywalking, too. Who cares?

He was the victim of a random, violent crime, and police should be apologizing to his family for what they've done to his reputation, not making it worse.

What is even more troubling is that police have apparently not been forthright with the community, not just about this terrible murder, but also about other incidents of violent and apparently random crime downtown.

The city is abuzz with rumors about a series of violent incidents, beatings carried out by groups or gangs of young people. The victims, for good reason, have chosen to remain silent.

But police, who have an obligation to warn people about crime risks, have also been silent, for the wrong reasons.

Is it possible that Matthew Chew would have taken more care on his walk home that fateful night, if police had been more forthcoming about escalating crime downtown?

The Tuesday press release, most certainly vetted and approved by the chief, was not only short on details but long on self-serving promotion.

The detectives have been working "tirelessly on solving this complex and fragile case," the press release said, before going on to thank state police and prosecutors for their cooperation.

I'm sorry, but a press release that reports that a suspected killer is still at large shouldn't be thanking anyone.

Police went out of their way in the press release Tuesday to say they have been monitoring the suspects. This was another attempt to exonerate themselves from another of their initial mistakes, of saying there is no threat to the public.

Clearly, no matter how thoroughly they've tried to monitor the suspects, the public probably has been at some risk. And what of the period of time before there were even suspects?

Obviously, detectives have done some fine work, and it's heartening to know that police have closed in on the suspects. I have no doubt that there is a lot of dedication and professionalism within the rank and file of the department.

And yet the management of the police department in this instance has been abysmal.

I know the management of the city is adrift, with a city manager transitioning into retirement and the political focus on next year's mayoral race, but someone needs to hold the police chief accountable, for hiding escalating violence from us all.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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