It was the stuff of nightmares for public transit riders, a bleak commentary on the callousness of our fellow Philadelphians, a reminder of the dangers of collective passivity in the face of crime — and, as it turns out, it may have been more than a little misleading.

When law enforcement officials from SEPTA and the Upper Darby Police Department announced earlier this month that a passenger on a Market-Frankford Line train was raped while other riders stood idly by, it was met with a justifiable sense of horror and outrage.

» READ MORE: This is only the latest police lie | Will Bunch

But in the process of turning this case into an international spectacle, SEPTA and the police have failed to provide a consistent narrative, and subsequent comments from prosecutors have cast significant doubt on some of the initial claims made by investigators.

According to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, “The picture that people have gotten, that this crowd of people sitting there were filming and not doing anything, isn’t true.” Not only did a passenger notify the police about the assault, Stollsteimer said, but some of them filmed the incident — a disclosure that was initially given a voyeuristic spin by investigators — in order to create a record of evidence for prosecutors.

There have been numerous other missteps and inconsistencies, including conflicting reports about the number of witnesses to the assault and how many passengers filmed the attack.

» READ MORE: Stollsteimer denies that crowd callously ignored assault

Victims of violent crimes, especially sexual assault, deserve so much more. And the public deserves much more accountability and transparency.

We don’t know why the police and SEPTA officials seemingly slandered the bystanders of this attack by saying they sat idly by as a woman was raped.

But we do know that the public’s trust in the police has been compromised. A 2020 Gallup poll reported that confidence in the police was at its lowest level in three decades. We also know that there are systemic issues with the police and integrity. There are the cases we know about — remember that the initial George Floyd report said he experienced medical distress? — and even more that are likely swept under the carpet of injustice.

When the police and civic leaders mislead the public, it hurts us all. In the SEPTA rape case, it caused unwarranted global outrage that painted our city’s residents as coldhearted observers to a violent attack. The misinformation created a sense of terror among those who rely on public transportation, eroding passengers’ trust in each other.

It’s time for all of the agencies involved — SEPTA, Upper Darby police, and the Delaware County prosecutor — to get their act together and release a comprehensive, detailed, and accurate accounting of what they know about the case so far.

Given the sensitivity of the case, it is a step too far for the authorities to publicly release any unedited videos of the incident, but allowing journalists to review at least parts of the collected footage would be an important step toward restoring public confidence — and helping us all better understand what happened, and what didn’t, on that Market-Frankford Line train in Upper Darby.