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

Police: With more funding, blotter will return

 


Haines Borough Police Chief Heath Scott told the borough’s Public Safety Commission Tuesday he would produce a police blotter again when his budgetary needs are met.

“We’re $63,000 over budget,” Scott said. “I’m not going to pay somebody to sit and use their time to draft the police blotter to give to the papers. As important as I think that is, I’m a steward of the people’s money. The budget’s not right. When we get that budget right, I want to give this community their blotter.”

Police recently requested $63,000 be added to this fiscal year’s budget after overtime and standby hours caused the department to overspend. The assembly may decide on that request at Tuesday’s assembly meeting.

According to data available from the borough’s public safety website, calls and cases for service inside and outside the townsite have increased between 2015 and 2016.

During this week’s meeting, public safety commission member Bill McCord brought up communication concerns between the police and the public.

“There are certain issues that come up every now and then…what happened to the police blotter?” McCord asked. “A lot of people, they aren’t willing to go to meetings, but they’ll read everything in the police blotter for better or for worse.”

Scott responded that he would provide the blotter – a log of calls to police – when his budget concerns were addressed. Otherwise, he said, citizens are free to make public records requests. “Everything that we do is in triplicate,” Scott said.

In an email response to questions including how much time preparing the blotter takes and how much of the budget deficit needs to be addressed to provide the police blotter, Scott responded, “The HBPD weekly bulletin is written to a national standard.”

Scott’s bulletin is a report of police actions that typically includes only a few items. It has been intermittently published in the Chilkat Valley News.

Petersburg Police Chief Kelly Swihart said his department doesn’t factor in financial concerns when it produces a blotter for the town’s weekly newspaper, the Petersburg Pilot.

“Our records management system produces an automated report,” Swihart wrote in an email. “One of the dispatchers runs the report, and then manually redacts any information that won’t be released, each week. The report is fairly generic and it is up to the individual outlet to request more details if needed. We don’t charge for the service as it takes a few minutes and a few sheets of paper each week.”

Wrangell Police Chief Doug McCloskey said creating the police blotter is part of the daily log procedures dispatchers make whenever calls come in.

“They type it into the log as it occurs,” McCloskey said. “It’s not something they stop and do at the end of the week, it’s a cumulative log. Generally it’s just a matter of handing it over. It takes a little time to print it off and go through it, maybe an hour a week.”

At the commission meeting Tuesday, Scott compared the Haines blotter to Unalaska’s police report, which the department there has suspended.

“Unalasaka, the gold standard for blotters in this state, is no longer producing a blotter because they’re in a fiscal crisis,” Scott said. “You cannot expect that type of communication from a police department when they’re not funded appropriately.”

According to the Alaska Dispatch News, Unalaska’s Sgt. Jennifer Shockley rewrote each report and added her own colorful narrative to create a humorous and more engaging police blotter that attracted the attention of national media outlets including NPR and the L.A. Times.

Shockley dedicated much more time to producing Unalaska’s blotter than most police departments, and stopped due to staffing shortages.

Scott has cited other reasons for not producing a police blotter. In October, when he pared it down, he said the information contained in the reports provided little useful or newsworthy information.

He described reports of traffic stops and other minor items as “a bit of a red herring,” Scott said at the time. “It sends you down a rabbit hole.”

Scott also said the more humorous elements of the police blotter reflected negatively on the department and there is no substance behind it.

 
 

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