Special Reports

Watching the Watchmen

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  That is a Latin phrase that means , literally, "Who will guard the guards themselves?"  It, according to Wikipedia , can be translated as “Who watches the watchers,” or “Who polices the police.”  It’s an old phrase, which can be traced to Plato’s Republic, but emerged, in its Latin form, about 1,800 years ago; i must admit to rather liking Latin.  The line appeared in a satire by the Roman satirist Juvenal (again if Wikipedia is correct). 

In American it is often the press, the “Fourth Estate,” the Press that serves that function; the media watches the watchers.  I am but a serf on that Fourth Estate, but it has fallen to me to watch the watchers, sort of.

I’ll be away from the blog for a bit, less than a fortnight, but when I return, I am planning a series on the investigation into the disappearance of Ray Gricar, the missing Centre County District Attorney.   It will be a long look.  Some of this has been the subject of prior blogs.  The public release of information has been discussed, The Public Case, Part One , The Public Case, Part Two , and the ultimate results of

The Dueling Press Conferences in the investigation has been mentioned.  Though it is no longer available on-line, I did a guest blog for Mr. Bosak, titled “What They Got Right,” where I looked at the actions of the police in the first weeks of that investigation. 

I still hold that police, especially the Bellefonte Police Department, did get a lot right in the early investigation.  There was a lot done right in the first seven and a half months of the investigation, but there were also possible and actual mistakes and misstatements (or “Mistakements” in Tony Gricar’s words).  Some of them have been corrected and most still can be.  On the balance, it was a well conducted investigation in this stage; the crucial first 48 hours of the investigation was almost a textbook example of a missing person’s investigation (and I have no doubt much better than one I would get living in Philadelphia, if I were missing under similar circumstances).  After that, there were some problems, some things left undone, or at least unreleased.

After January of 2006, however, there was a change in the patterns of the investigation.  It became notably more of a series of responses to real or perceived public criticisms and less of an actual investigation, with the occasional fact, long known to the investigators but not generally known to the public, released around the various anniversaries.  This started well before Mr. Bosak wrote is seminal “Missed Leads” article.  I will be examination that in detail as well.  This is where the investigation broke down and became cold.  This case should never have gone cold.

This is intended to be a long series, noting both the successes and the failures.  I have already noted that some of the criticisms of the police and of the incumbent District Attorney, Michael T. Madeira, have been off base.  What Else Can Be Done?   I have also noted that Mr. Madeira, in particular, has left a lot undone.  A Grand Jury  Both the Bellefonte Police Department and the District Attorney are involved in this investigation, and both will be discussed.  Further, Mr. Madeira is both the direct successor to Mr. Gricar and is the “highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the County,” according to the District Attorney’s Office website. http://www.co.centre.pa.us/da/default.asp   

Because of the length, I will interrupt the series with any breaking news on the Gricar case.