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It's Our Turn: The compelling world of police blotter yields lessons

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opinion Alexandria, 56308
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Going through the police and sheriff blotter every day is an eye-opening experience.

The one or two sentence descriptions of the incidents that law enforcement agencies deal with are funny, sad, tragic, outlandish, mundane, bizarre, heart-rending, cautionary and head-scratching.

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It’s no wonder the blotter, which the newspaper re-instated just a few months ago, is one of the most popular parts of the newspaper.

Our primary goal in printing it is to give readers real-life insights into the many roles our officers and deputies play in the community – catching drunk drivers and other lawbreakers, dishing out friendly advice to those in a jam, responding to potentially dangerous situations, and making our community safer.

The blotter also shines a light on some dark problems some would like to believe rarely happen around here – drug use, chronic alcoholism, vandalism, thefts, homelessness, acts of violence and other destructive behavior.

I go through the blotter every day. We’re not able to print every incident that officers respond to; the list would be too long. Just a couple weekends ago, the sheriff’s office and the police department responded to more than 200 calls, which would take up several pages. So I have to make choices about what to include. I weed out the more routine medical calls, the fender-bender crashes, warrant checks and so on.

I try to focus on items that carry a lesson about the consequences of crime, such as drunk driving, drug use, stealing and such. Too many people, I think, believe that they can get away with such crimes. The blotter proves they won’t.

I also pick out items that readers can learn a thing or two from – phone scams, ordinance violations, fraud, break-ins that occur in a particular neighborhood, dogs that are left inside vehicles, and frivolous 911 calls. I still can’t believe a recent blotter item where a man frantically told his neighbor to call 911 because his phone wasn’t working. Why did he call? He wanted police to fix his phone.

Yes, there are plenty of those off-beat, unusual blotter items that make you laugh or shake your head. One of my favorites was about a man who broke into an office after business hours, barged into an employee meeting and asked if this was where an anger management class was being held. When he was told it was not, he left, angrily.

I’ve picked up some lessons within the police blotter “world.” I knew that alcohol and drug abuse are a serious problem in our community but didn’t realize the full extent until going through them, item by item. Those 200 calls over a weekend? One out of every 10 involved drugs or alcohol.

Domestic disputes, unfortunately, also take up a lot of our officers’ time. An example: Deputies responded to a report of a male, out of control, trying to get into a former girlfriend’s bedroom. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Another: A son threw his mother around and took her phone. When she tried to use the house phone, he pushed her down again.

Parental issues are another frequent blotter item. Some make you wonder why law enforcement has to get involved. An example: Dispatch received a report of a 10-year-old who was not listening to her parents and was not going to school. Another one: A parent requested assistance for her 14-year-old daughter who was out of control. She was mad because her parents wouldn’t let her have spaghetti for supper.

That’s the compelling world of police blotter: a microcosm of what’s happening in our community, day by day, and the response from law enforcement that tries to make sense of it all.

• • •

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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Echo Press (320) 763-3258 customer support
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
(320) 763-1236
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