Editorial: A hard call
For several weeks, The Bulletin has little, if any, news of domestic violence issues in Wilton. It’s not because there haven’t been any. It is because the police have severely curtailed the information they release on these cases.
Several months ago, the police changed the way domestic calls were logged. They used to be logged simply as “domestic.” That was changed to reflect the severity of the incident and now they are separated into “violence” and “verbal.”
Verbal incidents are simply that — raised voices, arguments gone over the top, enough to warrant a call to police either by someone at the scene or by a concerned neighbor — but they do not escalate to the point of physical violence.
Violent calls are more serious and it is these that have usually made their way into the newspaper.
Along with changes in the log came withholding most information regarding domestic cases. This new policy was driven, The Bulletin was told, by a new law — Connecticut Public Act No. 15-211 — which mandates that police departments withhold the names and addresses of domestic violence victims.
But the law may contradict the Freedom of Information Act, which says records of any arrest are a matter of public record.
It is a difficult call to be sure. Withholding the names and addresses of victims often means withholding the name of the accused as well. They are the only people arrested — other than minors — who receive what many would perceive as a pass. There is great concern on the other side of the issue, that revealing a victim through the name of the assailant, would prevent reporting of what is already an under-reported crime.
The Bulletin does not wish to cause more harm to someone already in a difficult situation, but there is a concern that not reporting offenses at all would give a false impression that domestic violence is not a serious issue in Wilton. At the end of each police log it will be noted how many domestic calls were made — verbal and violent — in the police blotter each week.
Each is a serious call. Verbal abuse can be just as debilitating to the victim as the threat of physical violence.