It's been a couple of months since I expressed concern about the lack of information coming from local police agencies and my opinion that it was less than the public wants or deserves.
In particular, I was concerned that delays in press releases meant that the public wasn't warned about possible risks and also that the police might actually get assistance from people if they let them know more so that observant people might pass on information that would help solve crimes.
Since that time, our staff have been working with local agencies and we have seen an increase in press releases, particularly by the Tehachapi Police Dept.
We believe more than occasional press releases are needed, however, and continued our communications effort.
Before I describe the fruit of these efforts, I'd like to give you a little background that might help you understand the difficulty of getting information to the public quickly.
Public safety agencies generally have limited staffs and in most of our area, large territories to cover. They operate 24-7, but the number of staff available at any one time is limited and there is little or no overlap -- one shift gets off and another takes over. As much as we want to know what they're doing, we need to understand that their first priority must be responding to situations and getting them under control.
If people are arrested, there are protocols that the police must follow or we can end up with bad guys getting off because of technicalities.
If someone is on the loose or it isn't clear who committed a crime, some investigation will be needed and the police may be wary about releasing information that would put the investigation at risk.
And if someone has died, I think we would agree, time must be taken to ensure that family members are notified before a name is released.
Beyond these legitimate reasons that release of information might be delayed, it seems to me that our police agencies should be sharing more -- we should know, for instance, if there has been a rash of burglaries or mail thefts, or if a suspect is at large.
Of course, I should note that both the Kern County Sheriff's Office and local police agencies have made an effort to remind the public to lock doors and be aware that there are bad guys out there.
Especially since the prison realignment that has resulted in release of some inmates before their terms have been served, and with the economy still struggling, it should be no surprise to anyone that certain kinds of crime have increased.
Still, I think people want to know more than has been regularly released by our public safety agencies and to this end our staff met last week with representatives of the Tehachapi Police Dept. and Kern County Sheriff's Office -- and have other meetings set for this week with other local agencies.
We are asking these officials to gather information from their staff and agree to a morning phone call where a reporter can get information about what has transpired since the last call -- and get answers to questions we might have to allow us to prepare a report for our readers.
Beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 15, we will then publish this information on our website as part of a compilation of other timely information that we will call the "Noon News."
In one convenient location, visitors to our website will be able to read a brief compilation of public safety reports, weather forecast and calendar of upcoming activities and events -- along with links to other stories that have we may have published since the last report.
The compiled information will also be edited and added to news briefs in the next print edition, and will serve as leads for other stories to be developed by our reporters.
The "Noon News" will be published Monday throuh Friday except for certain holidays which will be noted.
When press releases are issued by the agencies at other times, they will be devloped into stories and published online, in the newspaper and as Breaking News Alerts from tehachapinews.com, as appropriate.
You can sign up for these alerts at tehachapinews.com and while I am talking about our website, I'd like to mention another new online service available to our subscribers -- you can now manage your subscription online, reporting missed deliveries, making vacation stop requests for both the Tehachapi News and Bakersfield Californian, or even order a subscription. Just click on "subscriber services" in the upper left hand corner of our home page.
Watch for the "Noon News" beginning Jan. 15 at noon on tehachapinews.com.
CLAUDIA ELLIOTT is editor of the Tehachapi News. Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 823-6360.