An Open Letter to Lawrence Police Chief John Romero

February, 2013


Dear Chief Romero,

Over the years the staff, editors and even our publisher Tom Duggan have personally observed Eagle Tribune reporters saunter into the police station unchallenged, go to the booking sheets (which contain information on all arrests) and make copies of documents within those booking sheets.

According to your own commanding officers, there is a standing order to “give the Eagle Tribune whatever they want.”

In fact we have observed prepackaged envelopes of booking information in the police station marked “EAGLE TRIBUNE”.

We have observed arrest reports being leaked by you to the daily paper before any other member of the public was afforded access to them.

We have observed you, chief give instructions to subordinates after a major crime has been committed, to “only give that to the Tribune”.

We have sat by silently for years, observing your release of confidential and personnel information about your officers to the daily newspaper, and your inappropriate comments in the press about ongoing cases in violation of department policy.

We do understand you have a cushy relationship with the Eagle Tribune which personally benefits you and your career. And we understand that you prefer to deal with a news source that will only print what you tell them, and only write about you in glowing terms.

And that’s ok, we are big boys and we understand you are in love with your own prefabricated, positive press.

What is not OK, however, is that you treat these public documents, (bought and paid for with taxpayer’s money), as if they were your own personal bartering tool to get good press with the daily newspaper.

Some people would call that pay for play. We would agree.

At issue is our attempt last month to get a copy of booking sheet information on armed robbery suspects.

We were told by your officer in charge, after speaking with you about our request, that you denied our request because “booking sheets have confidential information on them which are not public record.”

If we hadn’t seen Tribune reporters view, copy and leave with information out of those same booking sheets on hundreds of occasions, we might have accepted your lie and dropped the matter completely.

But we know better, and so do you.

Either you, Chief Romero, are withholding public information from the taxpayers (in violation of the law), or you are breaking the law by giving confidential, non-public information to the daily newspaper.

We want to know, which is it?

We do not deny that you have done a decent job as Chief of Police in Lawrence. We also do not deny that you are operating in a very corrupt political environment, while also dealing with a very corrupt criminal element on the streets.

But we also have noticed how much of a politician you have become over the years, and how you have blurred the line between enforcing the law for others, while violating the law yourself.

This is not acceptable. And the free ride is now over.

The Valley Patriot has now retained an attorney to file court actions against you the very next time we seek public documents and are denied. Your personally benefitting from the inappropriate use of public records stops now.

At a time when we have been forced to sue Mayor Lantigua to gain access to public documents in City Hall, we have to wonder how your actions are any different from our corrupt mayor.

Either the public has the right to know what is in our taxpayer-funded public documents at the Lawrence Police Department, or they do not.

We believe they do.

And we believe an Essex County Superior Court Judge will agree with us.