A letter to the editor of the Erie Times-News that I wrote ran today (8/12/2010), you can read the published version here.
The only difference between what I sent which is printed below, and the published version was that the editor entered the full names of the officials I referenced and he/she left out the last line, which I thought was the most powerful. It was probably a space issue, but…whatever.
I want to explain the context in which I sent the letter. I’m not one for much criticism, especially of law enforcement. My father reached the highest levels of the Erie police force, and put his life on the line every day for over 35 years to promote peace and prosperity in the city of Erie.
My note is in response to what I see as a general “tin-ear” to concepts such as public opinion and communications at City Hall. When the news hit that the little two-year-old girl, “Bitty” was found murdered, it was shocking and a shot in the gut to everyone who calls Erie home. After a spring and summer of shootings and violence in this town, this senseless act was the final straw that wrecked us.
Fully understanding that the police and the DA were in the middle of an active and intense investigation, from the news reports I saw there was little consideration on the part of the officials on how to communicate this awful news to the public. Instead of an official news conference in the Mayor’s office or the steps of City Hall, the cameras seemingly caught the police chief at the door to his office. Instead of strong words of resolve and comfort to the community, it was the quote of “this sometimes happens across the country.”
It was in the context of bewilderment and hurt in which I wrote this note last Monday night:
To the editor:
With all due respect to the difficulty and tragedy that accompanies the jobs of our highest-level civil servants, I have to say that law-enforcement’s public response to the murder of the two-year-old girl is totally inadequate.
We don’t need Chief Franklin saying that this kind of senseless act happens across the country, while warning parents to lock their windows and doors as if there was some deficiency on the parents’ part.
Right now we need strong words and action. Where was the press conference with Mayor Sinnott, District Attorney Daneri, County Executive Grossman, and the Chief pledging their commitment to use the full capacity of their offices to protect our community from such unspeakable events?
Where was the passionate and stern warning to potential evil doers to put them on notice that if they are contemplating even a petty burglary let alone a heinous murder they will be hit with the overwhelming force of our judicial and correctional systems?
After words are spoken, the leaders need to take action, using all of the tools at their disposal to fight crime while protecting civil rights. They need to smash this dangerous and cavalier attitude that repeat offenders approach criminal activity.
Finally, we need to see that our mayor and chief, county executive and DA are grieving with the rest of us who claim Erie to be ours over the loss of this innocent little girl. We are shaking our heads and asking our leaders, “When is it going to stop?”
This story has transformed over the ten days it took the paper to print my letter. My prayer is that the police will get the complete picture of what happened and justice will be served for little “Bitty.”