In response to comments made in a story in the Times Colonist on April 4th, 2012, the following letter was sent to the publisher:
This letter is in response to the article in the Wednesday, April 4th, edition of the paper. It was written by Katie Derosa and was titled ‘Saanich man stabbed his wife, then killed himself.’
This particular case was a tragedy compounded by the fact that the deceased were both members of the same family. In the early stages of the investigation, the family requested privacy regarding certain details. They raised concerns that the deceased’s grandchildren were left living in the community and were old enough to see and hear media reports but may not have been mature enough to deal with the consequences. In these cases, the wishes of the family, especially where children are concerned, are important in assessing whether the police should or should not release information.
The release of information into ongoing investigations is done for specific reasons. When considering a release of information we ask questions such as:
• Is there a perceived or real risk to the public?
• Are we in need of public assistance in some fashion? (ie: are we looking for a suspect, or canvassing for witnesses)
Neither of those situations existed in this particular case.
Generalized statements like: “…standard procedure in violent crimes,” create a perception that there is a requirement imposed upon police to release information during these investigations. There are no statutes, nor any policies which require the release of information. In choosing to release information we rely upon the tests as commented upon above. Each investigation is assessed individually as no two are alike. Although open and honest communication with our community is important, there are times when details will be withheld from the public. These decisions are not done frivolously but with specific reasoning.
The statement: “…friends of Kathy Mueller were outraged…” is concerning. No such outrage was ever expressed to the Saanich Police directly, to detectives involved in theinvestigation or by members of the family. In fact, family members and most comments on the Times Colonist web page were supportive of the decision to not release detailed information.
After the Saanich Police declined to provide certain details of the incident to them, the Times Colonist then attempted to obtain it through the B.C. Freedom of Information process. The Saanich Police FOI officer denied this request, a decision which was appealed by the Times Colonist to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. That decision was upheld and the information was not released.
In conclusion, to not report that decisions we made to withhold specific details was externally reviewed and ultimately supported by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is disingenuous. This reaffirms our initial decision not to release these details and will guide our release of information in similar circumstances into the future.
Sgt. D. Jantzen, 138
Public Information Officer