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Police logs ought to be public

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.: A bill to allow citizens to view the daily log of calls answered by police officers or sheriff’s deputies is winding through the Legislature this year.

It’s a pretty straightforward measure, requiring police departments and sheriff’s offices to let the public see what calls they’ve received and responded to on any given day.

In places such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City, that already happens. But that’s not the case everywhere.

In some smaller communities, public access to the police log is limited or excluded.

The discretion rests with the chief of police or sheriff, who can decide to make that information public or to hold it in secret.

The new law removes that discretion and opens the log information — except for some mental health calls or other sensitive situations — to the public.

In almost every community, police officers work hard to promptly respond to calls and concerns from the public. The number of calls for service in some locales is stunning.

Wide support

That probably is one of the reasons many police chiefs and sheriffs in South Dakota are in favor of this open government measure. They want the taxpayers to know what they’re doing every day.

For citizens, this measure offers valuable information about the activities of local police departments as well as on potential criminal activity.