Evening Sun, 08/27/06
Littlestown police launch blog
The Evening Sun
By Kristen Milton
Evening Sun Correspondent
Littlestown police officers say their new blog is a way of reaching the public. But they have thus far failed to reach local police officials, who say they have not read the Internet postings.
The blog (short for "web log") is the work of the Littlestown Borough Police Officers' Association. Contributors have been working off duty to set up the site, which offers a report of a recent burglary and a link to a state assessment of the department as well as biographies of all six officers. Much more is planned, including "tip forms" where the public can anonymously notify officers of problems, crime prevention advice and comments on community trends.
Calling himself "a lone ranger" in the department, Police Chief Donald Baker said Thursday that he had not been consulted about the site, which debuted earlier this month, and did not intend to read its postings.
"I don't know what it is or what's the reason for it," Baker said. "To me it's just another thing out there – another person's opinion."
Mayor Donna Shadle, who is responsible for supervising the department, had also not seen the site this week. "I know nothing about it," she said. "I don't use computers."
Officer Joseph Henry, who authored the Aug. 13 burglary piece, said he and his colleagues set up the site as a way of beginning a dialogue with Littlestown residents, especially in the wake of a review by the Governor's Center for Local Government Services. The evaluation, issued in May, called for hiring an additional full time officer and creating a detective position as well as recommending management training for Baker and improved prisoner holding and evidence storage facilities, though it said the department provided "fundamentally sound crime control and public safety services." According to a blog posting by an unnamed officer, the association supports the review's findings.
The report is available in the library and through the borough offices but Henry said officers have heard little feedback.
"We just want to create a two-way communication forum," Henry said. "People can be hesitant to approach an officer in uniform but if they can write a little form and send it in (perhaps they will). In the computer age, this is a socially acceptable way of communication."
Thus far the conversation has been one-sided. As of Thursday evening, there was only one non-police posting to the site.
However the single civilian poster was complimentary of the police association's effort.
"Thank You for this forum," the anonymous poster wrote, "so that citizens of the boro may have the opportunity to be 'another set of eyes' to help the department keep the community safe and as crime free as possible."
Councilman Ben Ricci, who suggested the formation of a "Police Planning Committee" in part to respond to the state review and who maintains his own blog, was hesitant to say much about the new addition to Littlestown's Internet offerings, as were other government officials.
"I think its value is yet to be seen; it's really in its infancy," Ricci said Tuesday. "(The officers) have the right to do it and it may be helpful as far as community feedback. I will say if you look at other police association Web sites, this doesn't seem to be in the same spirit."
Ricci did not elaborate.
Henry said officers would allow the site to speak for itself as they continue to add to its offerings.
"The position of the association is that police work is not a position of privilege but a position of service," he said. "This is another way of trying to communicate with the community."
To read the Littlestown Borough Police Officers' Association blog go to lbpoa.blogspot.com.