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Morning Poll: Should We Name Names In The Police Log?

Since the names of people arrested are a matter of public record, should Patch publish those names, even for smaller infractions?

I’ve been having an interesting and ongoing debate with my various Patch colleagues around the country about an issue that, on the surface, maybe doesn’t seem all that important, but ultimately speaks to some core issues we face as a society. And, because it’s Patch, I thought I would throw this question open to our readers.

The issue is this: should the Police Log publish the names of everyone who gets arrested?

In the city’s online Daily Police Log, those arrested are named, and their dates of birth are included to distinguish them from others who may have similar names. The names are public record, available to all. So there it is.

Now, there is a pretty solid faction of my colleagues who believe, and believe strongly, that if we run a police log on Patch, we should include the names, dates of birth, and any other information that is listed on the public record. Here is the argument: if someone is arrested for suspicion of bank robbery, say, then of course we’re going to publish that; probably even write a separate story about it. So if someone else is arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, how can I justify not publishing that name? Who am I to say that one offense is less important than another? And what if that person arrested for DUI has more than one offense, or is a public official? Seemingly small infractions can point to larger issues, the argument goes. Publish all names, with a disclaimer that an arrest does not imply a conviction.

It’s a compelling argument, I must admit. Public information can and should be available to the public, at least in many instances.

But there is another side to this coin.

I can publish all the disclaimers I want – if someone reads about an arrest, the reader will, for the most part, imply guilt. Otherwise, why would they arrest you? And in a town this small, naming names can have some pretty severe consequences.

In days gone by, it wasn’t perhaps such a bad thing. You got pulled over, arrested for some minor thing or other, your name got published in the newspaper, a week went by and it was forgotten. But these days, if your name gets published in a police log, and that log is on line, it can wind up in a Google search. No, it definitely will wind up in a Google search. And who does those? Potential employers, landlords, people who are interested in finding out who you are. An arrest in this case certainly doesn’t do you any favors, whether or not you are guilty and have been convicted.

In have published a few police logs where the names of the arrested were included. It felt a little strange, and a little intrusive. Mostly, I don’t publish the names, unless it’s a major crime, like bank robbery or a wild car chase through town, or a home invasion. Because if someone is named in an arrest, and a conviction is truly not implied, then shouldn’t we as reporters be willing to follow that case all the way to its conclusion? And then report that outcome? I’m not going to follow a DUI arrest through to its conclusion, unless it’s a public official.

But my colleagues come back and say, who am I to determine what is a major offense and what is not? If I publish any names, I should publish all the names. It’s only fair, and it’s a matter of public record.

I guess it comes down to this: what is the purpose of publishing a police log? Those who favor publishing all the names see the log as an extension of reporting all the information available to the public, and let the public decide the value for themselves. I tend to see the purpose of the log as a way for my users to identify crime trends in their neighborhood so they can take any necessary steps to avoid problems.

So here is today’s poll question. Do you think that all the names of those arrested should be published in the Martinez Patch Police Log? Please feel free to vote, and of course, as always, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section. 

MIKE ALFORD October 14, 2011 at 02:23 AM
well Chris I have had that happen to me also --- one time I was up and driving from Garberville down to san Francisco i was partying all night turned right around and went without sleep for 36 hrs drove all the way back up there i had two girls in the car I fell asleep at the wheel spun off the hwy. i was lucky didnt hit anything - but if I was a cop and saw that I would have Booked me !
Chris Kapsalis October 14, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Well when I was driving back from Nevada, I had worked a 10 hour day at 7,000 feet elevation, and had a 5 hour drive home and almost fell asleep at the wheel all the sudden on the drive home. Would you have booked me??
MIKE ALFORD October 14, 2011 at 02:34 AM
no Chris You didnt fly off the road like i did with two people in the car like I did --- No i would have to say I would have booked Me !
Chris Kapsalis October 14, 2011 at 03:04 AM
Trust me Mike I would have booked me as well a few times in my younger days driving. We live, if we live long enough or don't end up in jail for manslaughter, some get away with it and hopefully learn from age, others learn the hard way a vehicle is a deadly thing in the hands of an impaired person. But i am talking about maybe being arrested for being sleepy suddenly, or other circumstances, assumed to be under the influence, your name published, then cleared of that charge, maybe other charges, but once you are tried in the media, or by public opinion, sometimes it never can heal, or be made right. I can name more than one person who was arrested, and charged, and their names all over the media, ruined for life, and later found completely innocent. That old saying, I would rather 100 guilty people go free than one innocent person put to death. Something like that At any rate, I stand by my opinion about no names. Would you want your name , or would I want my name put in a patch news story as say a person who assaulted someone, and later it was proven to be self defense? It would be hard to undo that kind of negative publicity I think. Once in the mind, some things cannot be erased. That is why they often have a change of venue in trials, because too much was said about someone who is still innocent, and cannot get a fair trial after the media puts their name all over. I don't want that.
MIKE ALFORD October 14, 2011 at 05:15 AM
Chris In a perfect world it would be a nice way to treat people --- but Chris i have been in bad places before --- Ive learned a lot the hard way --- but I look at it as i put me there -- so i try to learn a better way ----- all in all What you said are words of wisdom and should be respected !

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