Friday, July 25, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Boyd levels with public

Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd said Monday his department will begin informing the media about all armed robberies even when the victim is not hurt or not much money is stolen.

The policy change recommits the department’s support of being open to the public after being criticized in these pages for not warning residents about a string of ATM robberies that ended with a fatal shooting in December.

We argued then that the murder might have been prevented had residents been told that it was dangerous to use cash machines after dark, and that the thief would have been less brazen had word gotten out that the police were on his trail.

In tell-it-like-it-is fashion, Boyd, who was the spokesman for the police department at the time of the murder, now says the public should have been told about the robberies as a matter of public safety, but that the three robberies had not yet been connected.

Even so, police departments should alert the public when a dangerous criminal is on the loose: Just one ATM robbery should have been enough to issue a warning. Boyd agrees.

The thief had held up two customers at ATMs before the crime spree ended when a young man was gunned down after he refused to hand over his $20 withdrawal.

Lerome Deshawn Kelley, a 19-year-old with little to his name, approached his victims while he rode on a bicycle, armed with a handgun. Cops quickly arrested him after the murder when they found his abandoned bike. That’s good police work.

The department will also begin releasing dozens more police reports weekly to help The Leader better inform our readers, Boyd said.

This level of responsiveness is uncommon from public officials, who often take criticism as a personal rebuke instead of a constructive review of their performance.

Boyd, who took over as interim police chief in May when Gary Sipes stepped down to run for mayor, has been with the department for 26 years. He deserves to be given the job permanently. And since he appears to have the support of both candidates in the November election, it’s likely he’ll get it. We hope so.