The Appleton Police Department's Philosophy on Being Transparent to the Community.
The Appleton Police Department has been tasked with two very complex investigations, each tragically unique for those involved. During the early morning hours of May 27, we began a homicide investigation which culminated in an arrest rather quickly. Approximately 21 hours later, one of our police officers was involved in a violent incident which resulted in the suspect’s death by suicide and the serious injury of two others by the suspect’s gunfire. We are disappointed the Post-Crescent feels both criminal investigations, family notifications, and public dissemination of information can be handled in a one-size-fits-all approach. We are equally perplexed with how timeliness is related to factual transparency. We immediately released information, I did an updated release within 14 hours, and I immediately turned the investigation over to another agency even though I didn’t have to.
Being transparent about an event is commonly accepted to mean being candid and open to sharing all of the information available to those who are interested. In the realm of policing, there are legal restraints and common human decency which should guide the release of certain details not crucial to the public’s safety and security. Our first priority in this event was, and remains, the wellbeing of Good Samaritan Andrew Maltbey and Officer Stephanie Weiner. This includes allowing them time to process what happened, notify family and friends, and to begin the medical healing process…all the while intently focusing on healthcare provider input for their own care upon leaving the hospital. We are also concerned for the Felton family and wanted to allow them time to similarly notify family and friends, process what happened, begin to grieve, and talk about how they can best begin to get their questions answered through investigation being conducted by the Green Bay Police Department.
The Post-Crescent also claimed we failed to be transparent by not releasing the name of the other Good Samaritan. If they would have asked for the facts, or waited for the investigation to be completed like the other media members did, they would know that this person is a juvenile and we can’t release his name.
Appleton Police staff worked tirelessly from the moment this incident began. Keep in mind, many of the staff who worked through the night on the domestic homicide on N. Durkee Street also were called to assist the Green Bay Police Department with scene work on Kensington Drive. Command staff were tasked with arranging for patrol schedule coverage for the ongoing work of the APD, scheduling critical incident stress debriefings for our staff and all responders, and tending to the needs of three families struggling to begin the process of going forward. In law enforcement, there are no “holiday weekends” when tragedy arrives in your community. Many of us went 30-40 hours straight, with no sleep, to investigate these cases and deal with some very traumatic events; this was no holiday for anyone involved and to insinuate otherwise is insulting. The Post-Crescent has told us words matter and have a big impact on the community; yes, they do.
Through our relationship with our community, we know how they define “transparent” and we will always strive, first, to meet or exceed their expectation of our transparency. Our department values of Courage, Integrity, and Compassion are simply words on the paper if they are not put into action during trying times like this past weekend.
Todd L. Thomas
Chief of Police, Appleton Police Department