Gaslighting Hartwick

Gaslighting Hartwick

Editorial: April 14, 2022

The saddest truth, in the end, is a person died several weeks after a horrible in-home accident, and to the family of Flora Polulech, The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta sends our sympathy.

Late in the afternoon on Friday, April 8, New York State Police issued a press release finally admitting they found a January 2, 2022 incident to be a sad and tragic accident. It’s called a “Friday news dump” — late on a Friday afternoon is the perfect time to send out a press release that the issuer would rather see lost in a weekend news cycle, the timing exceptionally matched here to a heavy load of state budget news out of Albany. It’s like a newspaper using the Legal Notices page to bury a correction to a howling error on a front-page story.

Remember this: the State Police issued a guns-a-blazin’ press release on January 3, 2022 “looking for person(s) who burglarized then injured an elderly homeowner in Hartwick.” Police asserted with provocative certainty that “the suspect(s) unlawfully entered a residence on Poplar Avenue and caused physical injury to an elderly victim.” Frightening stuff indeed.

That gaslighting bulletin put local residents on edge and kicked off rampaging speculation as to who did what to whom and the extent to which the victim was harmed. One month later, on February 2, we asked State Police to comment on a report we had received from a source tied closely to the case telling us investigators already determined the matter to be accidental.

NYSP declined comment beyond a statement certain the incident was isolated, “based on the evidence gathered and the lack of similar incidents reported before or after this incident in the immediate area.”

But beyond saying the matter “remain(ed) an ongoing criminal investigation,” NYSP refused to respond to further questions over the next several weeks. Not long before its April 8 statement, we asked NYSP if it would be upgrading any pending charges given the news of Mrs. Polulech’s death. They refused to respond.

Among our other questions NYSP refused to answer:
■ In a village with a population of just a little more than 600, what’s taking so long to bring charges against a person or persons in this case?
■ Does NYSP have a person or persons of interest? If so, or if not, why won’t NYSP at least allow that much to help put the village better at ease?
■ To what extent does NYSP feel responsible for issuing such a provocative statement without first determining the situation to be an “isolated incident”?

Instead, NYSP’s resolute refusal to comment for three months left the door wide open on the local rumor mill, fanning flames for people affirming they know exactly what happened in that house and believing anyone who says anything to the contrary is covering for someone or somehow denigrating the family now sadly suffering.

If what people claim to know as fact differs from what NYSP now says it has determined, they must come out from behind their keyboards to set the record straight.

The State Police issued a hasty and irresponsible press release that grabbed ample local and regional media coverage on a slow news day in January, then abrogated its responsibility to the public by walking away until sneaking out a press release late in the afternoon of a busy news day three months later. That’s disrespectful to the citizens they vow to serve and to whom they now owe an apology and a vow to do better next time.


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