Here’s why we’re changing our police blotter policy on names

2 min read1,738 views and 67 shares Posted April 16, 2019

LebTown is announcing an update to its police blotter policy based on community feedback and internal discussions.

We ran a survey recently and while 2.5% of 150 respondents (four people) said that all names should be redacted, a majority of respondents wanted names published for each of the example incidents we included. The percentage of respondents wanting names to be published ranged from 59% on traffic accidents without cause (e.g. a deer ran on the road) to 92% on a case of bank fraud.

We have considered the data, held conversations, and explored options. Ultimately we have to balance the public’s right to know with an individual’s right to be forgotten. In plain terms, we have decided to begin publishing names for misdemeanor crimes.

At first, LebTown did not publish names for anyone in our blotters. We later modified this stance to allow us to name individuals accused of felonies, but this felt inconsistent when encountering simple assaults and other violent misdemeanors. While we considered categorizing every type of offense/class into a “names” and “no names” bucket, this approach quickly broke down due to the size and diversity of potential charges.

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We will still redact names for traffic accidents and summary citations, but starting today we are modifying our right to be forgotten policy to include the publication of names for misdemeanor offenses.

Summary offenses have a maximum fine of $300 and a maximum imprisonment of 90 days. Misdemeanor offenses of the third degree have a maximum fine of $2,000 and a maximum imprisonment of one year.

Put another way, if an individual could go to prison for a year over something they did, we believe the public has a right to know that.

We have always honored expungement and sealing requests, which have gotten notably easier due to recent state legislation. We will continue to recommend this course of action for individuals who wish to see their names removed from our police blotters. We are also considering other future enhancements to our policy, such as removing names automatically if the accused is not found guilty. You can send me feedback directly on this issue by emailing editor@leb.town.

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Read our updated policy below. (Red text removed, green text added.)

LebTown believes that people have a right for certain actions to be forgotten.

Because the Internet may store or “cache” what we publish indefinitely, we place a high standard on the publication of names related to misdemeanor offenses. We may make exceptions to this policy if identification of the person in question serves the public interest, or if the crime in question is particularly heinous and worthy of infamy.

In cases where a name has been published, we will remove the name from published content if the identified person is able to demonstrate that an expungement or sealing was granted. You may contact MidPenn Legal Services or the Public Defender of Lebanon County for legal guidance in this process.

As a matter of policy, we publish all releases from local police but redact any names names of summary offenses and accident reports before posting. The redaction of a name in a release does not preclude us from identifying the person at a later date, and ensures that we can make these releases available to the public in the fastest way possible while also abiding by the principles described above. The only case where we will publish a name in a police blotter is if felony charges have been filed with the state.

Please send questions or inquiries on this subject to editor@leb.town.

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