Monday, April 4, 2011
The Sheriff's View
By Pulaski County Sheriff J. B. King. Welcome aboard for another column. As I start to write this one on a very nice spring day I find myself looking out the window and thinking about going fishing. This is sort of a private a joke because I have not gone fishing since the start of the election campaign of 2004 and it seems like that was at least a couple of decades ago. Ugh! As I start the column on April 3, 2011, at 9:11 a.m. our calls for service/case number count stands at 2,790 for this year. I did not record the calls for service in column number fourteen for 2010 but next week’s column for 2010 showed a total of 2,496 for that week of the year. So we are still ahead of schedule on calls. And this number will most likely not get any better as this year moves forward.Our inmate roster had 62 or 63 names on it for Friday but here on Sunday morning we stand at 68. This simply means that Saturday night in the county was not all that bad. The MSHP brought us a couple of guests for a visit and I think the deputies found one or two more. The jail count ebbs and flows on a daily basis almost as quickly and routinely as the ocean’s tide flow. And that is just a simple fact of life on the corrections front. This brings me to a question I received a few weeks ago about our department news releases. The person wanted to know how and why I did the news releases. The why is simple, the people of Pulaski County want to know what is going on with the criminal world and they want to know that their tax dollars are being effectively spent in the fight on crime. The how is also simple, I have a contact group of approximately 40 plus E-mail addresses set up on my office PC and every news release and column are routinely sent to those 40 plus addresses.I should say that there are several duplications in the list. For example KY-3 TV has their main news address listed but at least two KY-3 reporters have asked that I also send the information direct to them so they are on the list. Any media group that requests gets placed on the list. We even have St. Louis area TV stations on the list. It has to be a fairly big story for them to cover it but we have made the evening news in St. Louis. The list also includes one sheriff (hello Dennis!) from way up north on the Iowa line who wanted to see how I did my columns for the public. The one question my reader did not ask was how do you decide what events are news worthy for release? And that is the hard part. I require the deputies to put a copy of every statement of probable cause they send to the prosecutor in my box so I will be aware of the case. Many of them are simply not news worthy situations. If a deputy makes a traffic stop for a burned out headlight and finds the driver to be driving while revoked (DWR) on his driver’s license he is required to do a PC statement to explain how the DWR charge came about for the PA. This is a serious situation for the person stopped because it can lead to a visit to our jail for few days sentence but it is not something the public at large wants to know about. And there are many other such misdemeanor cases where I simply do not put out a news release unless there is something special about the case. The first example that comes to mind was a recent and routine driving while intoxicated case that we made. I normally do not send out a DWI case. But this time the DWI came with a disturbance where a passenger in the car was arrested, the DWI suspect was arrested for obstructing the deputy and we also found that the family dogs were locked in the car trunk so we added an animal abuse charge. I knew this story would have public interest so I sent it out.As a general rule any felony arrest on view or with a warrant goes out. Most search warrant cases go out. Any pursuit or extended cold case effort goes out. But there are times when I do not send out news. I very rarely send out a release on a suicide case. We had a recent case of incest and while I reported that we worked the case along with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent (NCIS) I did not report the news when the suspect was charged because doing so would have made the identity of the underage victim known to many people. (No, the NCIS agent was not Ziva or Jethro.) My question on these news cases is usually a two part situation. Is this a case that the public would want to hear about? Or would this be a case were publication of the details would enhance the public understanding of the job that our Pulaski County deputies do every week? At last count there were 784 Missouri statutes that required the sheriff to take some sort of action and many of these actions are unknown to the general public. For that matter some of these situations show up so seldom that they are unknown to the deputies. I see part of my news role as trying to help the public at large understand the office of the sheriff. The 784 number does not include the criminal and traffic statutes so we can be a busy bunch of Beavers at all times.I should add that my policy on the release of arrest info and booking photo is much more stringent than what is allowed by court decision. On any felony case your name, address, charge and photo can be released immediately. I choose not to release until a charge has been filed. So far most of the media groups have not fought me on this point. And there you have it, more information on news releases than you ever wanted to know. I am out of words and once again please drive with care and please stay out of my jail. But we will leave a light on for you. The jail bulb burns brightly!