Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hear not, know not

The sheriff's office is going to stop people from listening to police calls (if it can.)
This is a major, and rather disturbing, story.
The media and others listen to police scanners to find out what the police are doing. But the cops supply them with the scanners and now say they can't have them anymore, Channel 12 reports.
(I don't know whether people can buy scanners to pick up the calls. Apparently not. As I understand it, the local police use an encrypted signal that is only understood by their own units.)
This is just the latest retreat from transparency by the local police. It has been getting increasingly dark for the past several decades.
Long ago, the police locked reporters and the public out of police headquarters, allowing them access only when supervised and by appointment.
Naturally, the police cite security concerns. That is a poor excuse.
When I was a police reporter in the 1960s I had free run of the building. I spent all day talking to cops and detectives, and reading the reports they file, and going into the jail to read the dockets and see who was booked and why.. Offense reports now are made available to the press only in a room near the front door of police headquarters. No one knows if every report is provided or not.
I also had a police radio. It was not two-way but I could hear police calls. The cops gave it to me because they had a spare in the radio shop. It was a big help. It enabled me to be present at the scene of one of the biggest murder cases in local history, when the pastor of the Beaver Street Baptist Church was shot by his girlfriend.
There were no "information officers" to herd the press in those days, and none of the cops objected to the access we had.
In the next sheriff's election, open access to the public (NOT just the media, who are not anybody special) should be an issue.
It will be interesting to see if the local media push this issue or just continue to be wimpy.

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