Friday, February 17, 2012

TOP STORY >> Information is released by mistake

Leader staff writer

A police report released by e-mail on Friday inadvertently revealed the name of an alleged victim of sexual assault.

Sgt. Keith Graham, a spokesman for the Cabot Police Department, said the program his department uses to write reports has a function that masks the names of juveniles so they are not visible. He was unaware that the problem existed and has reported it to his boss.

The boy’s name was covered over in white in the PDF file of the incident report that was sent to the news media. But the name reappeared when the file was copied and pasted by this reporter into a Word document file.

The arrest of Stacy Stracener, a science teacher at Cabot Junior High North, for allegedly having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old boy was widely reported earlier this week.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham told reporters the investigation indicated that Stracener had intercourse with the boy at least 11 times. Except for his age, the prosecutor released no information about the boy.

On Thursday, police released the incident report about the arrest to a Little Rock TV station. That report contained the name of the boy’s mother and said Stracener was a friend of the boy’s family.

The report said the boy had been Stracener’s student when he was in the seventh grade and that the two families shared an interest in BMX racing.

The TV station reported the shared interest, but not the mother’s name.

Contacted Friday morning, Sgt. Graham said he would not release the report again without approval from the prosecutor, who was concerned about information in the report that could identify the boy.

Prosecutor Graham said afterward that he understood the public is entitled to access to the initial report under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. He intended to look into the matter to see if further safeguards were possible to prevent victims from being identified.

Shortly afterward, Sgt. Graham sent the report to local media on the department’s e-mail list.

Since the prosecutor was concerned about revealing information that could identify an alleged victim of sexual assault, The Leader contacted him about the boy’s name appearing when the incident report was reformatted.

He said he would talk to the police about the problem.

The report said the alleged assault came to light after the boy’s mother found on her phone bill numerous texts between her son and Stracener.

The boy was interviewed at the Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center in Lonoke, the report said.