We plead guilty-and gladly-to no names

The letter writer got right to the point, like the 20 or so other people who have written or called the Garden Island in protest since we stopped publishing names of people arrested on Kaua’i.

“Your Police Beat section is so very incomplete…We want names like before for theft, DUIs, drug offenders, family abusers, etc. Educate or inform us of all the bad eggs on our island and make them become better people … No one wants their names printed.” Many thanks to everyone who has asked to bring back the names. We’re always open to readers’ viewpoints. And we welcome any opportunity to explain why we do what we do. This is one of those times.

About a month ago, we decided to no longer include the names of suspects in our weekly roundup of Kaua’i police reports. At the time of their arrests, these people are only suspected of committing a crime. That alone is not a good enough reason to tell the whole island that they were arrested.

The American criminal and judicial system is full of incidents in which people were wrongly arrested and accused. If that happens to someone on Kaua’i, we don’t want to add to the indignity by tarring an innocent person unncessarily. Their reputation could be permanently ruined if we printed their name and they were subsequently cleared. Despite being victims of a bad bust, in the minds of others they could be forever branded as a lawbreaker. Chances are that no amount of news coverage pointing out the opposite would ever change that perception.

It’s a different story in cases when someone is formally charged and a court determines their innocence or guilt. In fact, Garden Island readers can expect to start seeing the names of people convicted of drunk driving and domestic violence-crimes that don’t always make headlines, but nevertheless tear at the social fabric of a community and thus deserve public condemnation.

Back to our Police Blotter.

Its role is to give the public a general heads-up about their neighborhoods: Things like why a police car showed up a few houses down the street, or that there’s a rash of burglaries going on. The reports can also help remind people that incidents such as purse snatchings or bike thefts are a daily possibility, and to take precautions against being a victim.

One thing we don’t want to do with the blotter is to embarass anyone or use it as a bully pulpit to change people’s behavior. There is no evidence (no pun intended) to indicate the blotter has that effect. As one gentleman volunteered over the phone, he-and no doubt others-get a kick out of looking through the dirty-laundry list for names of people he might know. Well, at least he’s honest.

The Garden Island is Kaua’i’s newspaper, not its police department. We’ll leave law enforcement to the trained professionals while we focus on reporting what they’re doing to keep the peace.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 245-3681, Ext. 227.

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