Same Story, Different Season

Fall has come, but the local paper is still in summer reruns.  Their latest retread is the issue of an open grand jury.  Recently, a small group of people delivered their petitions to the DA’s office requesting that the recent grand jury regarding the Daniel Pham shooting be opened to the public.

I feel sorry for the family of Daniel Pham.  I believe the paper and a small group of law enforcement critics are exploiting the family’s loss for their own gain. If I were a member of the Pham family, I would absolutely want to know how he died.  To that end, I support a process where the police and the District Attorney’s office work with the family after the proceedings are completed to help bring them the information they need and to help bring them closure.

District Attorney Dolores Carr did not open the proceedings to the public.  She made public her reasons for doing so here. And before this becomes an anti-Dolores Carr issue, you should know Deputy District Attorney Jeff Rosen, a soon-to-be-announced candidate for the office, also opposes open grand juries.

I won’t try to speak for either of them here; they are both more knowledgeable and articulate on the subject than I.  I’ve listened to both of them list their reasons for opposing the proceedings being opened to the public and find myself in agreement with their reasoning.

As an officer, I bring a different perspective to this debate.  I’ve testified at an open grand jury.  I’ve seen first hand what kind of circus it becomes. I’ve seen what the stress of such an ordeal can do to the involved officers and their families.

On the day I testified, I waited in the hallway outside the courtroom.  I was in a suit and tie, so I was not readily identifiable as a police officer.  During a break, several of the observers came out to the hallway. As they began to talk amongst themselves, it became apparent that they already had made up their minds about the proceedings.

I would best describe these folks as “conspiracy theorists types.”  As I listened to them talk, I realized they were now talking about me and my upcoming testimony.  Remember, they did not know who I was.  I heard them call me a murderer.  I heard them say that I allowed a woman to die.  I heard them say that I refused this woman medical treatment.  All of this was false, but it didn’t matter to these people.

Despite the media cries for public openness, I saw very few people in the courtroom who didn’t already come to the proceedings with an anti-police agenda that wasn’t going to change regardless of the testimony or evidence presented to them.  I left there realizing that most of our community supports and trust the police.

Those who cry the loudest for an open grand jury see it as sport in the “gotcha” game of pointing a finger at any perception of police misconduct or error. Of course, the local newspaper also benefits from these proceedings being open.  They get a new story every day to keep the controversy alive and sell a few extra papers along the way.   But that doesn’t really help us do our jobs better or help a family learn the truth.  It’s better for everyone to have a process that’s more deliberative than entertaining.

Comments

Tonight\'s Council Meeting On Opening Police Recor

Honorable Mayor Reed and Council Members,

Tonight you are being asked to decide whether to expand the types of police records that should be made public on a routine basis or not. I am writing to support Mayor Reed's recommendation for the following reasons:

I beg you to start putting victim's rights at the fore front of your decision making process when it comes to this issue. If you need an example of the harm opening Police records can do to families of victims of violent crimes look no further than the Hosseini family. The Mercury News and a candidate for the DA's Office has used "the public's right to know," as a guise for selling newspapers, and to run for a position in the DA's Office with zero regard to the family involved. These news stories have hurt and re victimized this family in ways that should not be acceptable to any of you who care about victim's rights, and victim's rights to privacy.

Secondly, I work with immigrants who are crime victims. We have a horrible time getting them to report crimes because in their countries they fear the Police and authority as it is. How do you think they view knowing they could be the Mercury News's next victim thanks to you opening the private details of their victimization to a heartless media?

I get that groups like the NAACP, the ACLU, De Bug, La Raza, and other anti-Police groups are putting pressure on you to do this as a means to seal their own agendas, and "catch the racial profiling, terrorist, racist Police Department" doing something wrong, but they aren't looking at the whole picture.

As our elected Representatives, you are responsible for the safety, and well being of this community. Start by imagining yourself as a victim splashed all over the media after God forbid your husband, wife or family member is raped, murdered, or shot by Police for wielding a weapon and refusing to drop it. I ask that you stop listening to just one side of the issue and give some serious consideration to the needs and rights of victims of violent crimes for a change. Be their voice just once and keep them safe from re victimization in the press.

Thank you for your kind consideration of my request.

Kathleen Flynn

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I am very glad there is now this websight.

I read the Mercury article and posted a comment supporting the officers. Nothing at all outrageous. My post was removed by the next day, however, those that had made negative comments were still there to see. The Mercury has an agenda and apparently now practices censorship of it's readers comments. Pathetic

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I completely agree Jim. We as a society have established process in place to legally protect citizens and ensure they have the right to due process when accused of, or charged with crimes. I find it sickening that a newspaper who is usually the first to wave the 1st Amendment, or any other constitutional rights in anyones face with a dissenting opinion, would advocate the violation of an officers rights "just to sell a paper" and give the public a story. Clearly a sign that the Mercury News will go to any length to sell papers and break it's own professional journalistic standards and ethics, if any present to begin with. Then, when they don't get what they want, classify it as a "sunshine reform" and accuse the big, bad, police department of a cover-up. If you don't get teh answers you want, then just spin loosely veiled conspiracies or just fabricate theories into stories. Sound par for the course?

It's no mystery that ANY shooting, whether Daniel Pham's, any homicide, or officer involved shooting resulting in death is a tragedy. I'm sure no officer within the SJPD or anywhere across the country would say that they'd love to go through the mental anguish of being Monday morning quarterbacked, ridiculed, picked apart by the media, and c-workers after such an event occurrs. But if one were to believe the papers, it's just a regular ol' day on the beat when one happens! Oh, and then the police will just "cover up" all the evidence too.. Why not, everyone loves a good crime drama right?

In my short, but eventfull years as a police officer, I can say with overwhelming confidence that the majority of residents I come in contact with DO support the police and read the Mercury News in the morning with a cup of coffee and have a good laugh. As do I.

I agree that the DA made the right decision in Daniel Pham's case, and needs to continue to protect the rights and the process afforded to officers when tragedies like this occurr. The family definately deserves answers in the matter. But those answers should not come at the expense of prematurely painting a target on the back of an officer prior to all the evidence being heard in his/her day in court with the slanted angle of the papers. That type of politically motivated alteration of the process sheds too much light in on cases that require justice to be blind for good reason. Just look at the BART shooting mess as a prime example.

And what's with the veggie peeler comment in their editorial once again? Let it go... Try telling the public not to attack officers with ANYTHING in your hands, let alone attacking one altogether! It's what my parents would call a "teaching moment".

Stay safe out there...