From the News Director: What we know, what we don't, and why we fought for the Todd Shaw messages

Published: Jan. 20, 2018 at 6:16 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2018 at 8:26 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Over the course of a career in journalism, you hear people say a lot of bad things.

We report those things, we scrutinize them, and when necessary, we hold people accountable for them. But it's pretty tough for someone to shock us with words alone.

Friday was an exception.

The venom, bigotry and hatred we saw in the Facebook messages between former police officer Todd Shaw and an LMPD recruit are hard for anyone to process.

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+ Demands for widespread action following officer's racist Facebook comments

We fought to bring these comments to light, and in so doing we've unleashed a lot of discussion in our community. While we applaud the dialogue, it's important that it happens around a clear set of facts.

Here's what we've learned: We know that once these messages were discovered, every authority involved – from County Attorney Mike O'Connell to Prospect Mayor John Evans – took action to deal with the issue and with Shaw.

As a result, we know that Shaw is no longer a police officer. We know the LMPD recruit who sent and received most of the offensive messages did not complete his or her training, and is not currently on the force.

We know that Shaw was cleared in the investigation that led to the discovery of the messages, and he's not facing any criminal charges.

We also know that more than two dozen criminal cases were dismissed as a result of Shaw's damaged credibility, but those were all relatively minor cases – mostly traffic offenses.

It's also important for everyone to understand what we haven't found.

Right now, we don't have any evidence that Shaw ever acted on any of these thoughts.

>> Read letter, Shaw's Facebook messages (WARNING: Contains offensive language)

We don't know that anyone with whom Shaw discussed these views currently works in law enforcement.

Most importantly, there's no reason to believe that any significant number of police officers share the racist views Shaw expressed in these messages.  Indeed, the loudest outrage over this story has come from others who wear the badge.

Here's one more thing we know. None of this would have come to light without journalists doing their jobs.

Many police officers and even the County Attorney thought the public had a right to know what they'd found, and to understand the consequences. But they were powerless to speak until WAVE 3 News Reporter Natalia Martinez and others began investigating.

Even then, Shaw fought hard to keep the records secret, but our parent company backed us with the legal resources to take our fight to court.

Finally, on Thursday night, Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman ruled against Shaw, setting the release into motion.

In her order the judge wrote, "The documents reveal opinions and prejudices that bring into question Shaw's integrity as a law enforcement officer who has been entrusted to serve and protect all members of society." We think that's something our viewers needed to know about.

>> Read judge's order to release documents

It's terrible that our community now has to wrestle with the consequences of all this: that a policeman with a long and spotless record, who trained many of the officers who serve and protect our city, could harbor these kinds of thoughts.

The only thing worse would be for us to not know about it at all.

Darkness survives until someone shines a light.

Copyright 2018 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.