We understand the desire of Cedar Rapids officials to proceed cautiously as they deal with the aftermath of an employee entering the City Services Center armed with a shotgun and, apparently, intent on harming himself. So far, officials have refused to release the man’s name, citing privacy rules regarding medical treatment and the fact he has not been charged with a crime.
We applaud the quick response of law enforcement and nearly immediate transport of the employee for medical services. But we think the city’s decision to keep the employee’s name a secret raises questions and deserves more explanation.
“We have been consistent in not releasing the name of an individual who has threatened harm to himself or herself, or those that have taken their own life by committing suicide,” Greg Buelow, spokesman for the Cedar Rapids Police Department, said.
“The only time that we have released the name of someone that committed suicide has involved cases in which the individual harmed others as well.”
But the city’s consistency argument points to standard procedures, when this incident was anything but standard. A city facility was evacuated. Thankfully, no shot was fired and no one was injured. Although it would be difficult to argue the incident had no effect on those caught up in those tense moments.
Officials have not fully explained the nature of the employee’s work, and whether he routinely interacted with the public.
Although it is unlawful for city employees who are not law enforcement officials to have firearms at work, investigators say they still are deciding whether a crime was committed. The county attorney has not yet decided whether or not he will pursue the matter. The pace of this process raises more questions.
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And we can’t help but wonder whether a similar incident at a private workplace would be handled in a similar way, with the same concerns about privacy and disclosure. If such an incident happened in a public school, it’s tough to imagine parents would be OK with not knowing the name of the employee.
Secrecy, as usual, has fueled speculation on the city’s motives.
Officials simply must be more forthcoming on why this incident has not yet resulted in charges, and why they feel comfortable keeping the identification of a person who went armed into a public building private.
We understand caution, but we want more transparency.
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