EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 10, 2014

Editorial: Secrecy is not the answer to domestic violence

In their rush to respond to the brutal slaying of Jennifer Martel, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a bill that ironically would protect people like Jared Remy, her accused killer, as well as the victims of such serial abusers.

The version of the bill passed unanimously on a voice vote by the House on Tuesday includes language that would keep reports and arrests involving domestic abuse and assault off the police log, which is open to the public. A separate, secret police log would be created to document those reports.

Supporters of this provision say guaranteeing confidentiality would encourage more victims of abuse to come forward to report it.

A case can be made for that argument, but the flip side is that keeping the reports secret would also shield the identity of their alleged abusers.

This is an extraordinarily bad idea for several reasons.

A public arrest log is a bedrock element of the public’s right to know. This is not a police state, where you can be picked up off the street and made to disappear without anyone knowing what happened to you.

It also helps prevent law enforcement and others from covering for the powerful and politically connected or pressuring their victims.

In 2010, a woman who reported she was violently attacked by an aide to New York Gov. David Paterson later complained she was pressured by state police and the governor himself to back off. When she subsequently failed to appear in court to press her case, the aide went free.

But when the case was exposed by the New York press, the aide was convicted and Paterson dropped plans to run for a full term as governor.

Just as importantly, the public log lets the public know what crimes are being committed in their community and whether anyone has been arrested and charged with those crimes. And they are entitled to that information.

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