Letter to the editor: Publishing the police log is harmful to our community

I am writing to share my perspective on the publication of police reports in our Brandon newspaper, since I was part of the recent conversation with Mr. Jupiter and others in our community regarding the purpose of publishing the police log. Given the feedback from Mr. Jupiter and others involved in our conversation, I’m sure any poll we might conduct in our community would indicate support for such publication. We know the public delights in spectacle and anonymous trolling – just log into any social media account to confirm this – but I still am convinced there are strong reasons for not publishing police reports, which I would like to highlight:

1. Insignificant Offenses: A significant portion of our weekly police reports documents minor infractions, like traffic stops, alcohol violations, and domestic disturbances. These reports may provide entertainment value but do little to enhance public safety or understanding of real crime in our community.

2. Lack of Due Process Reporting: The “Reporter” is not a court of law, and our publication lacks the depth of reporting needed to follow up on the outcomes of citations. We merely cite accusations without reporting on the due process, ensuing trials or other mediation, and whether the accused were found guilty or not. This approach contradicts the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty.

3. Unhelpful Policing of Policing: Police reports often lack the nuance that might reveal instances of social, economic or racial profiling or other problematic policing practices. Mr. Jupiter argues for transparency, but publishing these reports without critical examination makes it appear as if the police actions are more objective than they may be. If a review of the police log reveals a crime or series of crimes that is of meaningful interest and community concern, or police activity that brings into question what transpired, I hope we have the wisdom to investigate all sides and then report.

4. Perception of Crime: Publishing weekly police reports may create the false impression that our community is plagued by crime when actual data suggests otherwise. This can contribute to unnecessary fear and alarm, overshadowing the fact that many offenses in the reports are relatively minor. It can also exacerbate existing socio-economic divisions, further driving wedges into our community.

5. Contribution to the Poverty-Prison Cycle: Publishing names of arrestees without considering the long-term consequences for individuals can have devastating effects on their lives. It can hinder their ability to secure employment and break free from the cycle of poverty and crime. Since information is now captured electronically and can “live” in perpetuity online, a seemingly harmless local newspaper mention has potential to be catalogued forever and haunt an individual in their future search for housing, work, and other opportunities.

6. Resource Allocation: Focusing on minor crime stories may divert resources away from more critical investigative journalism. In some cases, important issues such as environmental concerns may be overlooked in favor of quick, sensational crime reporting.

7. Public Judgment and Sensationalism: Readers and viewers often engage in judging those in their community based on crime stories. These stories generate gossip and do little to inform the public and, in some cases, foster a culture of ridicule.

I believe that the publication of police reports, particularly in a small-town newspaper like ours, should be reconsidered. Instead of devoting valuable space to minor incidents and potentially harmful sensationalism, we should redirect our resources towards more substantive reporting that truly benefits our community.

I thank Steven for the thoughtful and respectful conversation, and I thank the BPD for keeping us safe and enforcing the law. Finally, thank you for considering my perspective on this matter, and I hope we can engage in meaningful discussion about the role of police reports in The Reporter.


Lisa Peluso


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