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  • Last modified 23 days ago (Aug. 31, 2017)

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A delicate unveiling

A little over two months ago, Robb Stewart lost his life in an officer-involved shooting in Lehigh.

Law enforcement officials haven’t officially identified the officer who fired the shot, and neither have we, even though we were confident from our sources that we knew who he was.

This week we have. The decision wasn’t easy, but a story we believe is important for our readers couldn’t be told without it. It’s a story that questions how people responsible for your security make decisions that could help or hinder it.

What happened in Lehigh was a tragedy. A man died. Whether the shooting was justified or not is something that his family – and society as a whole – needs to know.

But, whether the shooting was justified or not, it didn’t claim just one victim. The officer who ended up taking a man’s life is equally a tragic figure. He undoubtedly needed counseling and now seems to be getting a new job elsewhere.

Until we know for sure what happened that fateful June night, there are no heroes and no villains in this story, only victims. A man shot dead, and a police officer who took that man’s life and now is trying to get on with his own.

The lack of openness in the investigation obviously was designed to protect him. Right or wrong, everyone deserves a second chance. But all the secrecy can have unintended consequences, as has been proved time and time again in Detroit, Chicago, New York, and many other cities and towns where secrecy fostered repeated misconduct by unscrupulous officers who hurt innocent people.

We have no desire to hound Lee Vogel. We still have no idea whether he did right or wrong. But we also have an obligation, in case he did wrong, to make sure secrecy doesn’t bury the truth the way it did in those cases, with tragic results in the future.

Officials need to trust that the public is open-minded enough that it won’t overreact against an officer under investigation – that the public really does believe in the notion of innocent until proved guilty.

But the public also needs to be safe in case it turns out that the 50-second pause between the shooting and when the man in Lehigh first pointed his gun at officers didn’t represent some problem that needs to be addressed before the officer involved is fit to return to duty.

Last modified Aug. 31, 2017

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