“Like pulling teeth” is a phrase that is frequently associated with something that has been made to be a difficult task but really should not be the case. That phrase is more than appropriate in referring to this newspaper's efforts over the years to obtain reports from local law enforcement agencies.
It has been a problem ever since I began sitting behind this editor's desk almost 23 years ago. There is no question in my mind that our police and sheriff's departments are taxed to the max. They both lack manpower and in some instances the resources to keep up the ongoing war against crime.
This small Delta community is cursed with an extremely high crime rate for a town with this small a population. Despite the best efforts of the local agencies, the FBI and the Arkansas State Police, drug dealing is still a major moneymaking industry in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County and residential and commercial burglaries and break-ins still plague its residents.
Despite the heavy workload, part of the responsibility of law officers is to report the crime that is occurring in a timely manner. To recycle an old cliché, “The public has the right to know.”
This newspaper, at least since I have been editor, has never requested any information that would jeopardize the solution or investigation of a crime. However, we feel that in the best interest of the community, the paper has a responsibility to report a crime has happened and not six to eight weeks after the fact.
The problem has been brought before our law enforcement leaders on numerous occasions and in public forums but nothing seems to change. Without police reports, the public becomes suspicious believing that something is being swept under the rug, either by law enforcement or the newspaper itself.
Transparency should be the appropriate word that comes to mind whenever the public deals with local law enforcement agencies. The people need their help. They need to know what is going on right under their noses in their neighborhoods.
Believe it or not, the police and the newspaper are on the same side with the same goals and objectives – to protect, serve and inform the public. Properly documented police reports are part of that community service and civic responsibility.
The H-WHPD recently received a new computer system to help simplify the filing of reports, warrants and other information regarding criminal activity in the community. We have yet to see any dramatic results in regards to speedier police and arrest and information reports being made accessible to the public.
This newspaper stands firmly behind the efforts of the men and women of law enforcement who have the courage to pin on a badge and strap on a gun each day never knowing just exactly what they are going to face. Many may ask the question as they walk out the door each day “Will I come home again?” or “Will I ever see my family again?”
Page 2 of 2 - Police reports are not published to sell newspapers. They are printed to keep the public informed. As editor, I would like to enter an agreement with our police and sheriff's officials to keep an open dialogue and let the public know what is going on.