State

Police Department being too secretive

Four days after one of its officers fatally shot a sword-wielding man downtown, the Modesto Police Department has provided almost no information about what occurred.

That's a mistake and a disservice to the community, not because we believe that the officer acted inappropriately but because secrecy breeds mistrust.

Again and again, law enforcement leaders ask the community to trust them -- their judgments and their actions. But trust comes from being open and upfront with people in a timely manner.

In this case, Police Chief Roy Wasden says they can't provide some information because of the Peace Officer Bill of Rights and won't release other details because "this is an open investigation." Those are often cited as reasons to withhold key information from the public.

Police are not even providing the most basic details, such as the exact size of the sword or the distance between the dead man and the officer. And preliminary autopsy results have not been released, when it's apparent that Richard Robles Jr. died of gunshot wounds.

This was not an incident where there are suspects on the loose or dozens of witnesses to be interviewed. Robles' family has been forthcoming about his mental health troubles. Police, in contrast, have not offered the officer's side of the story.

We're concerned that Modesto police are increasingly taking a "we'll tell you when and if we feel like it" approach, not just in officer-involved shootings but in other cases as well.

Openness engenders trust. Secrecy does not.

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