The Perry Police Department upgraded its records-management software April 15, causing a temporary news blackout for readers of ThePerryNews.com’s police reports.
“We’re working on a new system,” Perry Police Department Chief Eric Vaughn said Tuesday, “so we’re working on how we’re going to get those to you. As soon as we get them up and going, we’ll let you know. Hopefully, things will straighten out here in the next couple of days.”
Compared with some other law enforcement agencies in the area, which filter everything from their media releases except arrests and traffic accidents, the Perry Police Department has traditionally maximized its transparency and accountability to the public by releasing the full records of calls for service, redacting names, addresses and phone numbers only in cases when no arrests were made or citations issued.
Vaughn said releasing the full records sometimes has its drawbacks.
“Sometimes I think it hurts the relationship we have with those individuals,” he said. “I get plenty of calls every day, ‘I don’t want this in the paper,’ or ‘I didn’t want to call because I didn’t want that in the paper,’ because so much information has been released in the past.”
Vaughn said Iowa’s Open Records Law specifies that law enforcement agencies are obligated to release to the press and the public only the dates, times, locations and nature of calls for service as well as the dispositions of calls ending in arrests.
“The details you’ve been receiving in the past, I don’t know if that is entirely necessary that we give you,” he said. “Sometimes that’s too much. A lot of the information that comes out I don’t think should be public information, but that’s what we’re trying to work through right now.”
In one potential version of the new call records, such as the following example, the information released to the public is very meager in content:
The old call records are much more information rich. The following three examples are representative:
“ThePerryNews.com tries to give our readers as full a picture as possible of what the police department spends its time doing,” said ThePerryNews.com Editor Jim Caufield, “right down to the stray dogs and bats in the belfry. The police reports give a partial but very accurate picture of life in Perry, whether good, bad or indifferent. It would be a pity to lose that fine-grained detail, which we publish not in order to titillate as gossip but to inform as a kind of thick description.”