Police blotter, crime log, police notes...


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In fall 2006, fellow journalist and college instructor Mariel Garza pointed out in a Daily News column how difficult it was for her CSUN students to obtain something as simple as a daily crime report from the Los Angeles Police Department.

LAPD Chief William Bratton responded on the department's blog, where he pointed out, among other things, the logistical nightmare it would be for a department the size of the LAPD to make these kind of daily reports available.

But for all that was said, there was more to the story, so I sought to fill in the blanks with my own blog post.

As I explained back in November, the concept of a newspaper police blotter [see inset] seemed not only foreign, but foolish to some in the LAPD's ranks. Like Garza, I wanted my collegiate journalism students to do what reporters across the country do every day, review daily crime reports and decide what qualifies as news (No crime writer worth reading waits for a press release, or news conference, to dictate what's news). Yet, as I sought to set up this routine exercise, I was shocked at the response:

I suggested that perhaps LAPD might know these reports as a "blotter," or "crime log," or some sort of watch-commander's crime summary anything that provided sufficient detail about the prior day's reported crimes as to allow a reasonable person to determine if any incidents were worth a closer look.

[cut]

I asked one of the people with whom I spoke how anyone at the LAPD could not at least be a little familiar with what is a routine practice practically everywhere else. The response I received was that what may be normal in other places is not the norm in LA


I bring all this up now because I was reminded of it last week during a visit to New Mexico. While there, I read the "Police Notes" section of The Santa Fe New Mexican, which like a lot of American newspapers has published such a collection of crime reports seven days a week for many years with the full cooperation of both the local police and sheriff. It reminded me of what a puzzle it had been to people back in LA, and so I tucked it in my briefcase and later uploaded it for future reference.

This is what a police blotter looks like [see inset].

It's too bad this kind of information isn't readily available in Los Angeles. As you'll see, it includes far more detail than you'll find on the LAPD's Crime Maps.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is often credited for his statement that "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."

Braindeis also said "publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases."


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