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The column by Jim Pumarlo is accurate about the current state of public safety reporting, but incorrectly diagnoses the cause. Certainly reporters could push harder, but there are fewer of them as people continue to ignore the real need to pay for local news. (If you say tv and radio cover local news, ask yourself if they ever provided an interactive crime map or listed every felony charge).
In addition, voters approved a change to the state constitution that creates unclear guidelines regarding privacy. Twenty years ago it was possible for a reporter to walk into a police station and view an unredacted report. If you could even enter a police station these days, they will illegally ask you why you want the report, illegally make you fill out a request and then illegally deny you access to the record. Most likely they will cite Marsy’s Law or medical privacy laws.
If members of the public want the information, we need to demand that police, fire and other public officials commit themselves to openness. Public officials should also recognize that openness is to their benefit as well. It’s easier to support them if I understand what the workload and challenges are.
Aaron Holbrook, Wausau