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County supplying a typical answer
Last week I called King County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sgt. John Urquhart to ask about getting the names of those arrested in our community. We plan to publish police reports with names in the near future similar to many other community newspapers.
Every other agency on the Eastside - including the Washington State Patrol and Snoqualmie Police Department - provides names, but the sheriff's office has a long-standing policy that dates back to former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert that says they will not release names.
Urquhart told me I could find individuals when they are charged under the court system. The problem is we can't search those records by Zip code and thus it is nearly impossible to find out if someone was arrested locally.
Let's use an example to illustrate. Let's say that a City Council member was arrested for domestic violence. Do you think that is newsworthy? What would tip us off, besides maybe a phone call, that the council member had been arrested for domestic violence? We would have no way of knowing unless we recognized the person's name on the police report. It is information that is public and in many other communities, part of the community newspaper. Unfortunately, the sheriff's office has decided that we, and consequently you, don't need to know who is arrested in our area.
I would think it would be a great deterrent for crime, knowing your name would appear in your hometown newspaper.
I urge the sheriff's office to reconsider releasing names of those arrested. It is perfectly legal for them to do so. It would allow the community to follow a case through the court system.
The state's Open Records Act assumes information is public unless specifically exepted. In part it states: "The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."
There is a list of exemptions. Disclosure of the names of people arrested is covered by separate laws that give law enforcement agencies discretion to disclose names. Laws also allow for the withholding of names and other information that would hinder ongoing investigations or amount to an invasion of privacy. The courts have determined that naming people arrested is not an invasion of privacy and police are not penalized for disclosing that information.
But by choosing to withhold the names of individuals arrested, the sheriff's office chooses to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.
Correction to last week's editorial:
Last week I made reference to the maintenance and operations (M&O) levy for the pool and insinuated that the M&O levy might be voted on yearly or every other year. That was incorrect. The M&O levy on the ballot is for 20 years. It is a one-time vote for money to maintain and operate the community center for the next 20 years. It is also dependent on Proposition No. 1, the bond to build the community center, passing.
It's not uncommon for me to have my tail between my legs from something I said or wrote and for this blunder, I apologize.
But, it still does not change my feelings that the community center can be built without a pool and a regional approach to a pool should be taken in the future along with North Bend residents if we decide a pool is needed. For now, we have other priorities (most notably schools) that we need to be funding, not a pool.