There has been some buzz around the Record Gazette’s printing of police blotters. You see, we only publish Banning's police blotters. We'd like to publish Beaumont's blotters, as well, but the Police Department needs to be more transparent and proactive.
The issue then remains whether we should print Banning police blotters without Beaumont’s – or even at all.
Police blotters are a way to roundup the cops beat to describe a raft of offenses, fitting the who, what, where, when and why into a sentence or two; they have been a fixture of American newspapers large and small since the 1830s, according to Mary Ann Weston, an associate professor emerita at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Weston said, that was about the time the now defunct New York Sun borrowed the idea from newspapers in England.
Blotters actually save reporters from writing long, drawn out stories about every petty theft, house egged, drunk in public, or brawl outside Taco Bell.
Part of their charm is they can be exceedingly revealing and point out where trends of crime may be erupting, even without one of our reporters crafting a hardboiled narrative.
The bone of contention for some residents is the unruly light it sheds on the city. Some residents have said they think the blotters deter outsiders from buying homes or even entering the city and instead, choose to go to Beaumont.
Anything we print is information people can obtain from Zillow or other avenues.
This is not to say crime does not happen in Beaumont. It does.
It just so happens that Banning PD is forthcoming and transparent about how their police officers spend their day.
While they may not email the Gazette their blotters like Banning PD, Beaumont PD is particularly astute at keeping Beaumont residents informed in real time by way of Twitter updates, but this platform can be difficult to navigate for some, and is usually used to inform residents when a larger police presence is in the area.
The police logs that go in our paper do notify the community after the fact, but it is still a useful tool to discover what happens around your neighborhood.
And those concerned about the volume of Banning’s dispatches should consider the different population sizes in relation to the number of crimes. Beaumont is estimated to have a population of 49,241, while Banning is estimated to have a population size of 31, 230.
Transparency with the community is key for any government body to practice, because taxpayers who want to know where their money is being allocated to every dispatch of the day, should know.
The Beaumont Police Department has been contacted and they sent us a link to their police blotter on their website; however, the log has not been updated since June 2019 and it provides very little information about each officer dispatch.
There are also three press releases about recent criminal activity that the community can access dated: Sept. 26, Sept. 4, and Aug. 17.
The department informed the Gazette that they are working on updating the website.
It all boils down to whether community members from either city want to know about calls Beaumont police officers are dispatched to or whether they just want to be made aware of the larger criminal activity in the Beaumont area.
If you are one of the residents that would like to know it all, I would suggest reaching out to the Police Department and encourage them to keep their site current.
It should be noted, we did not receive only negative feedback about printing Banning police logs; in fact, we heard a lot of positive things too.
Some residents of Banning have expressed that they like knowing where the siren went last night.
Others said they have a newfound appreciation for police officers when they read about the whos and the whats in the blotters.
Some even stated that any crime that happens next door to them is a major crime, and want to know about it regardless if it looks fair and balanced between the two cities.
Ultimately, we are a newspaper and we won’t shy away from providing information to the community – even if it makes some people uncomfortable.