News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Justice center off base in restricting information

Here's a prediction that is as certain as saying Santa Claus will come on Christmas Eve:

The Criminal Justice Information Center's commission is setting the news media up for perpetual conflict with the state's sheriffs and police chiefs. The result, unfortunately, will be that there is far less aggressive reporting of crime and a compromise of the press' willingness to hold law enforcement groups accountable for how well they keep the peace.

If that happens, the public loses. People will lose their best barometer for gauging how secure they are in their homes, on their streets and anywhere else they may go.

This conflict doesn't have to happen if the commission backs off its well-meaning but misguided desire to make crime victims' names, telephone numbers and details of crimes private.

Commission members propose moving that information to the back page of incident reports where investigators write down confidential data that is not available to the press.

The commission voted Tuesday to move the information but sought a compromise that will set in motion a vehicle for police abuse of power and ego trips. The commission would leave it up to police chiefs and sheriffs to decide if they will divulge this information to the press.

The commission won't take a final vote until January after a period for public comment. Hopefully, people will see that society needs this information and that leaving it up to sheriffs and police chiefs to disseminate gives these officers a tool to keep the press in line.

If a reporter's article makes the chief mad, he'll get no more information. Chiefs and sheriffs should not have this power. Some of them, perhaps all, will abuse it at times.

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