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. 

Bill Mechling October 11, 2011 at 05:32 PM
Knowing the alleged perp’s name is not that important to me. If the crime is serious, the names will show up in a news story. The information that I would like to see, especially if it is a property crime, is a more detailed account of the location of the crime. I wouldn’t expect an exact address, but at least narrow it down to the block number or give the nearest cross street’s name.
Chris Kapsalis October 11, 2011 at 06:12 PM
No. Not unless you make it very clear they are innocent until proven guilty, and also that there are two sides to every story. So unless you let them defend themselves, no names imo. Also, race and sex should only be mentioned if police are actively looking for someone and people need to know a description. You hear so much, A Black man"...... Or a Hispanic man, you never hear a white man. Why does it matter? Also, I think a vague description is ok, like "an older gentleman" or a "Teenager" etc. Also you can sometimes never undo a seed you may put in someone's mind about someone. So I say no names. Please. And if someone really wants names, they can probably get them for the city website, police logs anyway, if they really want to know, that is if they put names in? I haven't really noticed about it when I read it those few times.
MIKE ALFORD October 12, 2011 at 03:51 AM
yes if a crime has been commited than do the right thing if a crime has been commited and there has been an arrest than let the citizens know because the way the courts are backed up and the lack of enough police on the streets the citizens of martinez need the right to know who is being arrested for the crimes that they are being accused of with people being more informed and aware thats what the news and the police have a duty to the public you know serve and protect
Withmar October 13, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Will the names of who reports be included? With the easy cell phone call to report your nieghbor and your pet peeves and general foes maybe that might be included. What about exposing false reports; venditive use of public saftey personel.
cameron mccord October 13, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Both sides of the issue have compelling arguements , but for the purposes of this publication and general online reporting, the implication of guilt associated with an arrest is a hard stain to remove. Keep your current policy.
Chris Kapsalis October 13, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Let's say you were pulled over for DUI, "with your name published" even arrested, but you were not DUI, and only sleepy? And the blood test comes back clean later, after are cleared and fond to be driving safe form a video say in court, if you were then sited for reckless driving, and it was proven you were not? Then what? Can you undo that? Will you be fired from your job? Let's say you are a truck driver or crane operator? "no names please"
MIKE ALFORD October 13, 2011 at 09:52 PM
ok now lets adress the drunk driving issue now listen to the question that jim put to us should a name be printed when there is an arrest ok lets look at the issue of d.u.i. well first of all if you are arrested for under the influence you must have flunked the soberity test -- that is the only reason that gives the police probable cause to even arrest you --- and see no boss can fire you untill you have been to court and found guilty of the offence so see that argument doesnt even make any sence but and this is the reason that so many people are getting away with keeping their drivers licences because no one knows when or where they even got arrested they get an attorney put some of these d.u.i. cases off for more than a year and the attorneys make deals in the courts and these people keep their licences they keep right on drinking & driving untill they get killed or kill someone -- no if in the case of d.u.i. cases hell yes put their names in or on every log or bolg , news paper anything that will stop these habitual offenders from getting behind a wheel driving under the influnce --- of booze , drugs or anything that would impair their judjment ------ yes put their names out there
MIKE ALFORD October 13, 2011 at 09:54 PM
actually if you are not commiting a crime ! than why even worry about it ?
MIKE ALFORD October 13, 2011 at 09:58 PM
oh yes to answer that question ---- what if you were to sleepy --- well if you are that sleepy than you are too dam impared to drive a car in the first place -- answer dont drive when your that sleepy
Chris Kapsalis October 13, 2011 at 10:26 PM
People are arrested all the time then found innocent. So yes I would worry if I was in fact not breaking the law and my name was published for being arrested. Might not happen much in Martinez, but people are profiled, and people have been set up and framed before. You cannot undo some things. Tarnishing an innocent persons reputation is not OK imo. Just my opinion, With respect Mike.
Chris Kapsalis October 13, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Sleepiness can hit you out of the blue on a long trip. Has me. I pulled over ASAP. But could have been stopped before being able to safely exit the freeway. I was alert and fine when I began my trip. Ever just get sick all the sudden? Dizzy? It does happen without warning sometimes at no fault of the driver. And yes, if they are sick, and a doctor says they should not drive, or have a propensity to get sleepy all the sudden, like with Narcolepsy, or say have seizures, then they should not be driving.
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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