Readers will remember that the OPP arrested and charged a local woman last month for defacing the Pride crosswalk on Rueben Street in Kemptville, and then withdrew the charges a few days later.
The problem was that, as is their policy, the original press release reporting the arrest contained the woman’s name, age and gave enough details to identify her to her neighbours and friends.
She was, quite naturally, upset that her reputation had been stained by the original report.
In reporting the story, the Times noted that it is our policy to redact any identifying features in OPP reports, for the very reason that the people charged had not been found guilty of any crime, and it is unfair to name them at that stage.
Well, the OPP have done it again.
On July 5, they issued a press release reporting the arrest of two men on charges of attempted fraud.
The press release noted that “Police learned the suspects were attempting to make high‑value purchases from multiple retail stores in the area using a “tap” payment feature on mobile phones.
Police were told by multiple retailers that the suspects were unsuccessful with their transactions”.
An OPP officer was credited with tracking down the suspects.
“An officer attended the area and located the vehicle and one suspect in a parking lot. The suspect was detained and later arrested. At approximately 8:21 p.m., the same officer located the second suspect in another parking lot off Ryan Wells Drive. He was also arrested.” The two men were then named.
The following day, a second OPP report announced that
“ Police later learned additional information that has now resulted in the charges being withdrawn at this time”.
This is the same wording that accompanied the report of the woman mentioned earlier who had also had charges against her dropped.
The fact that citizens of this province can have their names muddied in this way is really unacceptable.
Completely innocent people are being named as suspects arrested in connection with criminal activity, and even if charges are dropped, the mud sticks. There is no reason to name people at that early stage of a case. Certainly, when and if they are tried and found guilty, they can be identified. But what if they are tried and found not guilty? The OPP does not issue a statement to that effect, ever.
Those found innocent in court still have to deal with the fact that they have been named publicly when arrested.
The OPP has a policy that in domestic abuse situations, those arrested and charged are not named in order to protect the victims of their actions.
Perhaps that policy should be extended to protect the rights of all those arrested and charged.
Why not protect those we officially consider innocent until proven guilty? It is time for a change in policy.