Editorial: Carpentersville's unconscionable refusal to explain
More than two months ago, 31-year-old Joshua Paul died after being taken into custody by two Carpentersville police officers in what otherwise has been described as a routine traffic stop. That was two months ago.
And to this day, Carpentersville authorities have revealed almost nothing about what took place.
Imagine if you were a member of Paul's family. Or a friend. Two months with no explanation of what happened.
Frankly, you don't have to be a family member or a friend to be owed an explanation. You need only to be a member of the community who is interested in the public welfare.
The point of this editorial isn't to criticize the way police handled this traffic stop. We don't know enough about it to know whether it ought to be criticized. No one does.
The point is to criticize the way Carpentersville authorities have mismanaged their obligations to Paul's family and the public in the aftermath.
It is appalling. Unconscionable.
In light of Carpentersville's failure to be forthcoming, we requested on behalf of the public the documents and video related to the police encounter with Paul. We went through the proper channels, followed the processes set out by law.
And wouldn't you know it? Carpentersville authorities said no. They said it would hinder the investigation of the encounter by the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit.
Our question: How?
Tell us how the public's access to these documents or to the squad video showing the encounter would hinder an investigation. Tell us what little secret could be buried in any of these documents that would somehow make it harder for the integrity unit to do its job if everyone sees it.
How, Carpentersville? How will the public's access to these documents hinder any investigation? We are not the only ones asking this question.
The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking it, too. Her office directed Carpentersville officials to release the information, specifically pointing out that it would not compromise any investigation.
Assistant Attorney General Dushyanth Reddivari wrote that our request "is aligned with the public's interest in obtaining information regarding the manner in which law enforcement officials perform their public duties; specifically, in monitoring the use of force by police officers. There is a strong public interest in information that sheds light on the manner in which law enforcement officials perform their public duties."
That was the finding of the highest legal authority in the state of Illinois. And you know what Carpentersville authorities replied? "No." They defy even the attorney general.
There is one word to describe their attitude: Stonewalling. A community deserves something better from its police department, and a police department, above all agencies, owes more respect than that to the law.