Posted by Problem, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Jul 10, 2009 at 10:38 am
Here's the problem with police allegations. Whereas residents may have real knowledge of certain issues, such as the one Double Standard posted, obtaining proof equivalent to absolute certitude is difficult if not impossible now in California since police unions have effectively bullied the legislature into creating an environment in which police records are completely confidential. The cities of Berkeley and San Francisco were forced to stop holding public hearings on police complaints.
I am as supportive of police as the next guy, but this troubles me, particularly in a very small town such as Atherton. The backlash that could come about through proper reporting and public outrage has always provided a very effective check and balance against the abuse of discretion of government officials. Now, a police officer can do something truly wrong, and as long as the public doesn't already know (e.g., or I should say "i.e.", the public presence of a video tape such as Oakland BART or Clark Yee) the police chief can sweep it under the rug and no one can find out about it or question the decision.
That's an incredible amount of power when you think about it. The President of the United States has nothing even close to that ability to operate with impunity.
Based on all of this, the Almanac should realize a somewhat different approach might be appropriate for police situations. I would hope they would agree that the police stating you can't publish any allegation that cannot be proven, but we also aren't going to let you prove it, just doesn't fly.