Joseph Moran, Central Falls, Rhode Island
Police chief pushes secrecy in fatal shootings
Two years ago, police in Central Falls, Rhode Island, refused to release an incident report identifying the officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant in his apartment.
Superior Court judge Gilbert Indeglia wasn't having any of it. In response to a lawsuit filed by the Rhode Island ACLU, Indeglia ruled that the city had to release the report.
Now Central Falls police chief JOSEPH MORAN is trying to make sure that doesn't happen again. Working with his hometown legislator, Democratic state representative Kenneth Vaudreuil, Moran has proposed that the state's open-records law be amended so that the identity of police officers involved in fatal shootings would not be released until any related grand-jury investigation has ended.
In the 2007 fatality, Moran said police officers, responding to a 911 call, opened fire on 27-year-old Selvin Garrido Morales after he attacked them with a knife. A grand jury found that the shooting was justified. What's not justified is Moran's insistence that the officers' identities should have remained undisclosed until the grand jury had released its findings.
That a police officer should be able to fire his gun, kill someone, and remain anonymous until after he's been investigated is so inimical to the idea of living in a free and open society that it's hard to know where to begin.
Police work is dangerous. As Moran testified before the House Judiciary Committee, officers involved in fatal shootings are traumatized and often need counseling. But that's no reason to wrap the use of deadly force in a veil of secrecy.
Two weeks ago, the Rhode Island House overwhelmingly approved this proposal. The bill now awaits Senate action. It deserves a resounding "no."
Moran's misguided attempt to protect his officers is contrary to the accountability and transparency we should demand.