Now, here is an interesting ethical dilemma.
Last Friday morning, the New Haven Independent posted its final revision of a story reporting that the city’s police union had approved a “no confidence” vote in Chief Frank Limon by a margin of 246-21.
The New Haven Police Department has been beset by controversy since Limon’s arrival last spring over accusations of police brutality and over incidents involving officers’ confiscating cameras from people trying to record their actions. Last week, a group of African-American activists demonstrated in favor of Limon, claiming that the chief is working to reform a troubled department.
But I digress. The story closes with a quote from and a photo of a custodian who works at police headquarters. The custodian, Michele Kearney, says:
There’s been a lot of tension ever since he’s [Limon] been here. There is not a lot of morale here. The last chief [James Lewis] was more understanding of what needs to be done. From what I have seen he wanted to hear their opinions and try to work with them. This one here [Limon] seems like he is working against them and not with them.
The story drew 108 comments — a very high number for the Independent. On Thursday at 3:23 p.m. (in response to an earlier version of the story) a commenter who goes by “da hill” criticized the Independent for quoting “unrelated entities” such as Kearney. Editor and publisher Paul Bass responded:
Thanks for the input. Our feeling was that someone who’s in the building cleaning the floors every day, talking to officers, and watching what’s going on, does in fact have a valid perspective to offer on morale and the overall feeling in the building.
At 5:21 p.m., “NO CONFIDENCE” wrote: “I am so happy to see a civilian like Michele, pictured above, tell the citizens of New Haven how Chief Limon treats his officers. She works in the police department and is definitely well qualified to make those statements.”
A short time later, “Our Town” posted this: “I sure hope ole Michele is in a union, becuase I have a feeling she might not have a job tomorrow for speaking up.”
Then, at 11:06 p.m., there was this, from “Ken”:
The maintenance girl was fired immediately and we heard it came from, you guessed it, the chief. This is his MO if don’t agree with or lie for him you’re in trouble. City Hall has demanded she be re-hired by O,R&L. I guess the The Chief never heard of the First Amendment. OR&L should be questioned about it and if they lie they should lose the city contracts. If it came from the Chief he should be terminated.
O,R&L is a private contractor hired by the city to maintain its buildings.
On Friday at 3:49 a.m., “unbelievable” wrote: “She was FIRED and escorted out of the building like a CRIMINAL! and you talk about wanting to do your best for this city!? … Well New Haven Independent, what are you going to do now??”
What the Independent did was post a story by Bass reporting on Kearney’s situation. The events of the day were convoluted. Kearney was fired; no, she’d been placed on leave. Mayor John DeStefano’s outgoing spokeswoman said the mayor had asked O,R&L to reinstate her. DeStefano said he’d done no such thing. The mayor’s incoming spokesman then said the company had informed the city that Kearney had been reinstated.
And, most controversially, the Independent posted the cell-phone number of the O,R&L supervisor assigned to police headquarters, urging readers to make their feelings known. “Members of the public can call him there if they want to express their opinions on the matter directly,” Bass wrote. Continue reading