To The Daily Sun,
Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes put it in perfect words when he wrote this timeless gem: “The administration of government has become more complex, the opportunities for malfeasance and corruption have multiplied, crime has grown to most serious proportions, and the danger of its protection by unfaithful officials and of the impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect, emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press, especially in great cities. The fact that the liberty of the press may be abused by miscreant purveyors of scandal does not make any the less necessary the immunity of the press from previous restraint in dealing with official misconduct.”
Belknap County Attorney Andrew Livernois took such great offense to my last letter to the editor that he is now seeking a gag order in the proceedings, forbidding any pre-trial publicity. The county attorney’s office should not be permitted to do reputational damage control by initiating the criminal courts to give them an improper advantage in the press. They are not Communist Party officials in a totalitarian system of government who can pick and choose what can and cannot be said about them in the public forum. Superior Court judges are not beholden to protect the images of rogue prosecutors when defendants choose to publish in-depth facts about their overzealous prosecutions.
It is no coincidence that suddenly the Belknap County Sheriff’s Office is also in some turmoil. The Laconia Sun is pursuing that unfolding saga and illustrating how big city problems can easily infiltrate small towns that band together to provide community policing. Problems only get compounded and ingrained deeper in daily operations when they are not eliminated as procedural norms.
We’ve seen the tragic results unfold when rules are constantly broken and/or simply ignored. People die, and it’s not just criminals or suspects. Consider the Attorney General’s Drug Task Force raid that resulted in the death of Greenland, N.H.'s police chief in April of 2012. Chief Michael Maloney should still be alive today, but he was gunned down by a suspect that the AG’s Drug Task Force should have known was dangerous enough to shoot at authorities if surrounded. The county and the state are both proving over eight years later that the lessons of Chief Maloney’s loss have not been learned. Mistakes and misconduct continue to plague local and state legal authorities, necessitating a vigilant press rather than persistent radio silence on the subject.
The bottom line is police and other law enforcement personnel need to face more accountability when they corrupt the system or abuse their positions. Officers of the law should not be protected and coddled when they break the rules and walk all over the rights of the accused. Breaches of duty should be highlighted with an aim to improve conditions, not hidden. Sun “light” is truly the best disinfectant when it comes to cleaning up local corruption.