Our view: The rush to judgment

November 1, 2011 12:50:00 PM



On Thursday Sam Lathrop, of late the police chief of Beloit, Wis., sent an email to Columbus HR Director Pat Mitchell asking her to remove his name from the list of those under consideration for the the city's police chief. 


Wrote Lathrop: "I have read with dismay articles and blogs in your local newspaper. As much as you are looking for a good fit for police chief, I too am looking for a fit. If the articles and attitudes are any indication, I suspect that Columbus is not the community for me." 


Lathrop went on to write that two councilmen had already made up their minds, and he didn't believe he would receive fair consideration. 


It's a shame. If his thoughtful and gracefully worded email is any indication of who this man is, his departure from the field should give us all pause. 


No doubt those who condemned Lathrop felt his transgression disqualified him for the job here. He resigned after having a extramarital relationship with a subordinate in his department, a woman to whom he is now engaged. That such action should eliminate him from the running is not the issue we want to debate here. 


Rather it is the rush to judgment and the harsh words of our leaders and bloggers on this newspaper's website and others. As host to a site that allows users to make anonymous posts, we bear some culpability. (We are reconsidering that policy.) Sometimes we fail to realize it, but the electronic version of this newspaper is our community's beacon to the world. 


When people from afar want to get a sense of what Columbus is like, they can't walk down Main Street and see our beautiful architecture or experience kindness from a stranger they meet on our streets or in our shops. Instead they log in to this newspaper's website. There the actions of our leaders are reported for all to see; the malicious on-line sniping by some bloggers is a shameful reflection on us all. 


Columbus has an appetite for tearing people to shreds, a former elected official said Monday. "Jesus Christ could be among the candidates for chief," he said, "and that wouldn't be good enough for some." 


Would Jesus say, as did Mr. Lathrop, "I suspect that Columbus is not the community for me?" 


We should feel chastened by Mr. Lathrop's graciously put rejection -- "I wish Columbus the best in finding their next chief," he signed his email. And we should learn from it.