Sheriff’s Log is example of good open government
Published: Thursday, February 7th, 2013
The Governor’s Office had a number of bills introduced in the House recently that came from recommendations from his office and that of Attorney General Marty Jackley and the 33-member Open Government Task Force convened last year. Some got out of committee and some didn’t fare as well.
Neither the governor nor attorney general could explain why HB 1109 was killed mercilessly 13-0 in the State Affairs Committee. The bill provided that criminal booking photos and police logs are open public records. As it stands, mug shots of people arrested are not provided to the media and police logs are not open records.
When someone is arrested and they are not a juvenile, their name and place of residence are released to the media, but their booking photos or mug shots are not made available. That’s why you see images of people in orange jump suits wearing handcuffs pictured with a law enforcement escort on their way to or from court or jail. You would think these folks would rather have a mug shot in the newspaper instead of being portrayed in prison garb.
The arrest photo idea was shot down as not being a big deal, in that larger open records fish had been fried in the past and this didn’t warrant serious attention. House Majority Leader David Lust of Rapid City said the defeat of this bill in committee is significant “because the heavy lifting has already been done.” In other words, it is no big deal. But it really is or it would not have been proposed with the blessing of the task force and Gov. Dennis Dougaard and the state’s Attorney General.
We are fortunate in Custer County to have a sheriff and a deputy who are committed to informing the public of the department’s weekly law enforcement activities through a regular column in our newspaper. With Sheriff Rick Wheeler’s blessing, deputy Seth Thompson pens the weekly Sheriff’s Log in the Chronicle. The log often depicts the mundane and the ridiculous, but it is always an entertaining read for our subscribers. It is an example of open government at its finest and we appreciate it and trust our readers do also.
We have heard stories of out-of-state subscribers who regularly share their copy of the newspaper with fellow students or friends. In one case, a college student told us his roommates couldn’t wait for his newspaper to arrive in the mail so they could grab it and read the Sheriff’s Log. It has proven to be an informative and entertaining part of our newspaper and details the weekly law enforcement activities in Custer County at the same time.
More importantly, it epitomizes what open government is all about—informing citizens about actions of their elected and appointed officials. We applaud the Custer County Sheriff’s Office on its commitment to keeping county citizens informed about its activities and trust that this relationship will continue for years to come.
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