November 2, 2006 in City

Police log to go public

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Fast fact

Police log

The 24-hour running log will show calls for police service from midnight the day before to midnight on the day of release.

For the first time in decades, a daily Spokane police and Sheriff’s Office activity log will be made publicly available.

Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who has been in charge for nearly eight weeks, has been the driving force behind making the report available.

“It’s the law,” Kirkpatrick said in a recent interview. The logs could be available as soon as today.

The chief has said she is committed to openness and accountability in the Police Department.

Daily access to police reports went away in the mid-1980s when authorities cited changes in privacy laws that they felt required the documents be protected from unfiltered public disclosure.

Redacted copies of the reports could still be requested, but it could take weeks – and in some cases months – before the documents could be obtained.

The 24-hour running log will show calls for police service from midnight the day before to midnight on the day of release, said police spokesman Cpl. Tom Lee.

Since the report shows both police and Sheriff’s Office calls, Kirkpatrick met with Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich to see if he would agree to the combined release.

“I really didn’t see any issues with it,” Knezovich said. “It is part of being open and transparent. It will be a good thing for the police, the media and the public.”

Initially the police activity log will be sent to local media, but by early next year or sooner the log will be available on the Spokane Police Department Web site.

Other police agencies throughout Washington have also made police logs available online or in paper form.

The Whitman County Sheriff’s Office put its activity logs on the Internet last month.

“Over the last years, we’ve been really looking at our site, and we decided we wanted to put some things on there that would actually be useful for the public and the media,” said Whitman County Sheriff Brett J. Myers. “We were looking at how to make it more efficient.”

Myers said during the first week that the log was posted online he got about 10 phone calls saying it was great.

“I’m always open to ideas, and this one was easy,” Myers said. “Every once in a while I come up with a good idea, but I’d have to credit my records people for this one.”

Pullman Police Chief Ted Weatherly has been in law enforcement for 43 years, and “during that time up until we got computers we’ve had paper logs,” he said.

His department, which covers the city that’s home to Washington State University, put its police logs online about five years ago.

“The public has access to it, and they really like it,” Weatherly said. “The more information we can put out to the public, the better.”

Knezovich thinks the Spokane-area community will be grateful for having access to the logs.

“We constantly get calls where people want to know why a police officer, or several, was on their street the night before,” Knezovich said. “With access to the log electronically, anyone will be able to look up the information they are interested in.”

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