Monday, June 4, 2007

Blotter Buzz

I work on a small college campus in a small college town. The school newspaper and the local fish wrap each publish a police blotter—a collection of police activity for a given time period. Nothing much happens in town. Maybe a DUI or domestic disturbance. Anything more would be highly unusual and make headlines. At the college, the typical blotter item is, "3:35 AM. Campus security responds to fire alarm. Toaster is found smoking with forgotten toast. Intoxicated female student is taken to emergency room." All in all, there is not much ado.

In yesterday's Native Intelligence blog (one of the fine LA Observed contributor blogs), TJ Sullivan wrote about the lack of a comprehensive police blotter of LAPD operations. This idea was inspired by reading a column by Mariel Garza in the LA Daily News about Cal State Northridge journalism students meeting information gathering obstacles while trying to report on the LAPD. Garza's column prompted a terse response from LAPD Chief William Bratton on the LAPD blog. (Yes, they're bloggers too.)

All in all, there are interesting questions on both sides of the plate. Would the LAPD benefit by publishing more information about its proceedings? (Garza and Sullivan think so.) Does the LAPD offer some kind of comprehensive information about its operations and statistics? (Bratton thinks so.) The information sources Bratton points to are the blog, the media relations department, and (which is worth looking at from time to time, if only for the crime map).

It would be interesting to shed more light on the LAPD, but is that a practical objective?

Would such a blotter be citywide? I doubt that residents of Playa Vista are much interested in reading that officers responded to a car accident on Laurel Canyon.

Then, would it be by neighborhood? Would that local information source be redundant? (Many neighborhoods have Yahoo or other online groups where they disperse this kind of blotter-relevant information.)

I'd read such a thing, but I have an addiction to news that is bordering on unhealthy.

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