By Al Root, Mayor of Weaverville
I am writing in response to an article and editorial in last week’s Tribune concerning the Town’s policy on releasing information on arrests. I would first like to correct the misimpression that our Town Attorney authored the change in policy. While her expertise was relied upon as to the legality and wording of the policy, this change was initiated at my request for the reasons stated below. Those who disagree with the change should question my judgment, not hers.
My direction for a change in policy springs from a strong commitment to the concept that one is innocent until proven guilty. Having spent four years as a prosecutor in Brooklyn, I am not a starry-eyed idealist when it comes to the need for law enforcement. However, I do not believe the Town should take any action that smacks of publicizing the mere act of arresting an individual.
When I learned that the Town was preparing what looked to me like a special release describing each arrest for the sole purpose of providing it to the Tribune, I asked that the practice stop. I believe that the information available to the general public should be available to the Tribune, but the Town should not be packaging it for publication.
In its role as public watchdog, the Tribune has raised issues as to whether the Town has swung too far and is providing too little information, and I will be happy to look into this further with our staff. I agree that our citizens have a need to know where crimes are being committed, that our arrest patterns do not suggest discriminatory law enforcement, and that they can have trust in their public servants. There must be a proper flow of information to assure good government.
But I further believe that this should be done within an environment that respects the right of every American to put the government to its proof in a court of law before that American is branded a criminal. I am confident that we can accomplish both ends.
Editor’s note: All arrest reports end with the following sentence: The Tribune reminds its readers that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It should also be noted this week that the absence of an arrest report from Weaverville is because they reported no arrests from 6/10 to 6/16. We at the Tribune welcome Mayor Root’s revisit of the town’s