And so it starts.
Every Thursday night (except for next week – it’ll be Wednesday because of the Green Bay Packers game), I will be at the Police Department for citizens academy where I and 22 other community members will be learning the ins and outs of the department’s operations.
I first heard about citizens academy when a friend and fellow reporter took the class with the Whitewater Police Department. The many people I have worked with in this community have greatly encouraged me to join. When Sgt. John Konkol told me they changed the night to Thursday nights this year, I said “Great! I am in!”
The first class was pretty low key as the class participants were introduced to the department and we could ask Police Chief Russell Jack. One of the questions asked was why does the police department let the media print things like the call log? Basically why would the department give that information out when it could give the city a bad reputation because of crime?
I’m sure it’s a question many people have thought. After all, our community is great, it has significantly lower crime rates than other big cities in the state and the average citizens are law abiding and would give anything to help a neighbor in need.
Chief Jack gave a very good answer – because it is state law to abide by open records requests. Jack has pride in keeping the department open, honest and transparent, which he said Thursday night. So instead of being inundated with open records requests every single day, the police department automatically gives the media the public records that they are required to give, saving the department time.
Here is my take on this. You, the citizen, have the right to know. If three homes on your block have been burglarized, it’s something you will want to know to take precautions. Maybe watch your neighborhood a little more closely as you see reports of crime in the area. The police officers on patrol can’t be everywhere at once, and the community needs help from average people to contact the department if there is suspicious activity in the area.
I generally don’t include items such as suicide attempts, suicides, non-suspicious death investigations or mental or alcohol commitments. But, when the occasion calls for it and when I judge the citizen’s right to know, I’ll print it with as minimal detail as possible to protect the person and their family from the prying eyes of the public.
Week one is over. I am looking forward to seeing what I can find out during week two!