The police department’s blotter blackout has continued into a second week, but a few cracks are starting to show.
The department’s public information office has doubled-down on claims that it has not changed any policies regarding reporters’ requests for crime reports that are the basis of our weekly police blotters despite the ongoing, citywide refusal to provide them. Three of the 13 precincts we cover have come up with new info-sharing arrangements, but the rest are either unresponsive or defer to the public information office, which in turn says the responsibility for rebooting media relations lies with the precincts.
“We’re obviously having a communication issue here,” said Det. Kelly Ort of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information after repeatedly insisting that the blotter blockade does not represent a change in policy and that it is up to neighborhood commanding officers to address it.
Station house commanders and the rank-and-file cops who traditionally provide crime reports had different ideas.
“I have to follow the orders of DCPI,” said Capt. James Ryan of Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct, suggesting that a reporter look at the recently-launched police crime map in lieu of access.
The map only shows felony violent crimes by month and by precinct, with none of the who, what, when, where, or how that is the meat of the police blotter.
Another officer, this one with the Community Affairs department of Williamsburg’s 90th Precinct, was more blunt.
“That’s not our problem,” Det. Juan Roman said when told that this paper needs to inform the public of crimes as it has for more than 30 years.
That precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Mark DiPaolo, would only be willing to meet to go over the public records once a month, but was not available to talk this week because he was preparing the weekly CompStat data, Roman said. Nor was Roman optimistic about the amount of information that might come out of such meetings.
“You might ask [DiPaolo] the questions,” he said. “He might give you some of the answers.”
A crime analysis officer with Brooklyn Heights’ 84th Precinct said that he would like to restart the weekly meetings but that he would first need the okay of his boss, who would first need approval from his bosses at One Police Plaza.
In Fort Greene, commanding officer Scott Henderson is out of the office and no new protocol for handling the long-standing relationship with community media outlets will be drawn up until he returns on Thursday, after press time, according to Community Affairs Officer Varlos Brathwaite.
Three station houses bucked the blackout, including the 62nd, 68th, and 76th precincts in Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, and Carroll Gardens, respectively.
Crime analysis officers at the Carroll Gardens cop shop never stopped their arrangement of reading the crime reports over the phone, but one said this week that his outfit only provides complaint form information to community newspapers and not to the citywide dailies.
“The only way anyone would find out [information about specific crimes] is if they went to a public meeting,” said 76th Precinct Community Affairs Officer Vincent Marrone.
Speaking of which, your local precinct’s monthly community council meeting is probably the best place to go to let police know that you want your weekly police blotter back.
Lawyer Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union insists that the blackout is a product of outgoing police chief Ray Kelly’s low opinion the media and will be rectified with a change of leadership at One Police Plaza come January.
Calls to the commanding officers and Community Affairs departments at the 60th, 61st, 63rd, and 70th precincts, as well as to Deputy Commissioner of Public Information John McCarthy, and Deputy Chief of Public Information Kim Royster were not returned, nor was a call to the crime analysis unit of Park Slope’s 78th Precinct.
The phone number listed on the police department’s website for Canarsie’s 69th precinct has been disconnected, according to a phone company recording.
— with Bill Egbert, Will Bredderman, Megan Riesz, Danielle Furfaro, and Jaime Lutz