Earlier this month a bizarre story surfaced out of the city of Batavia, New York. In late April, the police were called to the Grandview Terrace apartment complex to conduct a wellness check in on a resident who others nearby thought might be a threat to the safety of themselves or others. Because the individual in question was perceived as a potential threat, at least one of the officers involved drew his weapon during the incident.
Luckily, the situation did not escalate and officers were able to leave without incident – almost. As one officer went to return his gun to its holster, the firearm discharged and shot the floor, startling residents. Luckily, no one was injured and the floor suffered “minimal damage” according to initial reports. But, apparently, those initial reports are all anyone has to go on. On May 8th, the city’s Freedom of Information law officer responded to local newspaper The Batavian’s request for information surrounding the incident. Citing a statute which stipulates that any part of a training or evaluation of an officer with regards to whether or not they continue service to the city can be kept private from public records requests. The incident report itself was not released due to “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” according to the clerk.
In response, The Batavian has appealed to City Manager Jason Molino in the hopes that the decision by the clerk’s office can be overruled. The law the clerk’s office cited, they say, is clearly not meant to be a blanket protection for police in which they can claim any incident involving an officer is part of “ongoing training and/or evaluation” and then refuse to disclose information. On the other hand, police are probably hoping to avoid embarrassment not only for the department but for the individual officer. In a case in which no one was hurt, they may figure the potential public outcry of withholding the information, at least until an investigation has been properly and fully conducted, won’t be that big of a deal.
According to The Batavian, however, multiple sources have come forward with information that implies that there is more to the original April 22nd incident than is being disclosed at this time. These revelations come, of course, from anonymous sources, but they still make the secrecy surrounding the seemingly harmless incident seem a bit more suspicious.
For its part, the police department has ruled out a malfunction on the part of the holster, but said that sometimes the buttons on officers’ jackets can get caught on the trigger of an officer’s weapon during holstering, causing a misfire. The officer in question was not, however, wearing a police jacket or any other clothing with buttons or clips at the time of the incident. Users on the newspaper’s website have expressed their own frustrations in the comments section, calling out elected officials by name to bring transparency to the issue. Only time will tell who listens and what comes to light. In the end, an open dialogue will probably best for all involved, if not just to clear the air around a potentially innocent mistake.