A Better Region 8: Jonesboro Police Department and transparency

A Better Region 8: Jonesboro Police Department and Transparency

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) -This past week, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott used the taxpayer-funded police website to assure the citizens that his department was “transparent.”

Since that video we have learned that the JPD is anything but transparent.

Last month, during a training exercise, a K9 officer charged another officer and was shot.

The Jonesboro Police Department, which posts a daily log of all incident reports, did not report that incident.

It was only after another media outlet received an anonymous tip and submitted a Freedom of Information Act request that the JPD admitted that the K9 had been shot.

The department's spokesperson denied an incident report existed.

But, following even more requests from even more media outlets, JPD reversed course and said a report had been filed. But it was locked due to it being an internal investigation.

There is a difference between "locked" and "hidden."

Police are exempt from releasing initial incident reports if the incident is under investigation.

That phrase under investigation is widely interpreted by police departments across Arkansas.

A lot of civil liberties groups have complained that this exemption allows police to hide information they or - say -someone in the community with connections doesn't want you to know.

This isn't the first time the city has had to answer about information being kept from public view.

In 2015, an audit revealed missing evidence from the evidence room at the police station.

The public found out about it two years later in November 2017 after it was brought up at a murder-for-hire trial.

This represents a pattern of what many would consider abuse of the “under investigation” exemption.

So what else is going on at the Jonesboro Police Department that should the community know about?

We understand our police officers have one of the most stressful jobs in our community and that pay certainly doesn't compensate for that danger. That does not, however allow anyone the right to keep what's going on at our taxpayer funded agencies from taxpayers.

We encourage our city leaders and citizens to take a hard look at the police department’s procedures and what other information they are keeping from the public.

That will make this a better and a more transparent Region 8.

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