Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Police limit information in report

 


You’ll notice that this issue’s police blotter is very small.

Last week’s police blotter was just as tiny.

The Chilkat Valley News and Haines Borough police chief Heath Scott are arguing over the scope of information that should go into the paper’s weekly blotter of police activity.

Scott contends that the blotter in recent years has provided little useful and newsworthy information to the public. “Just because it’s been around forever, doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said.

“I want to try some different things. I want the community to be the judge,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chilkat Valley News owner Tom Morphet countered that a detailed police blotter is an important tool to the community, including providing residents a window into a public safety agency.

“In other words, the daily business of the town that we pay the police to ensure is safe,” he said “That’s the kind of information that makes the public police report absolutely vital to the citizenry,” Morphet said.

(Disclosure: Morphet is a newly elected borough assembly member.)

The paper’s police blotter has been a log of accidents, minor crimes, reports of shots fired, bear sightings, false alarms, traffic stops, citizen complaints, 911 calls that ended with nothing happening, and other routine information.

Last decade, local reporters would go to the police station and look at a pile of police reports to put together the paper’s blotter. The subsequent and constant turnover in police chiefs ended reporters’ access to the paper reports. Instead, the police posted such information on the department’s Facebook page.

Scott became police chief on July 18 after a long stint as a deputy chief in Washington, D.C. He discontinued putting the blotter information on Facebook after Oct. 24. Instead, the police department provides the paper with a short list of what it says are the most significant crimes, investigations and other incidents of the past week.

The new type of list is dramatically shorter than what the Chilkat Valley News has published weekly until recently.

Since then, Scott and the paper have been in a dispute over the scope and make-up of what information should be released weekly.

Scott said the police department is providing more quality information to the paper than it has in the past. The no-longer-provided minor items are essentially a distraction, he said.

Minor items such as false alarms, shots-fired reports and traffic stops are “a bit of a red herring. It sends you down a rabbit hole,” he said.

Morphet countered that a detailed blotter tells residents about odd and important happenings in their neighborhoods.

“These are citizens who have questions about car accidents, domestic disturbances and other such incidents that they witness in the area. The town uses the police report to check and see how the police respond to such matters. So the blotter serves as a notification to the public of matters of public interest,” he said.

Morphet added: “If some of the items that police respond to seem humorous or mundane, that only reflects on the community and not on the police per se.”

Scott countered: “I say it reflects on the police department negatively. It reflects on the community negatively. … (It is) a police blotter with no substance behind it.”

 
 

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