When someone brings a bomb into city hall, area residents need to know about it.
If a violent mugging takes place outside a convenience store, the public has a need to know.
If families with grudges decide to shoot up each others’ houses, their neighbors have a right to know as much information as possible so they might take action to keep their own families safe.
Those are not random scenarios, but summaries of recent incidents in Clovis.
Almost as disturbing as the acts of violence: Clovis police did not notify local media that any of these things happened.
And no, Chief Steve Sanders does not have a more effective way to alert the community of the potential danger.
The pipe bomb and mugging were reported to the Clovis News Journal by area residents who thought the public needed to know.
The drive-by shootings were hidden in police “call logs” — vague summaries of calls for service — provided the day after they happened.
Sanders has told us repeatedly that providing information to CNJ is not on his list of priorities. His actions support his words.
When we’ve asked for daily five-minute meetings with a police representative, he’s said no.
His press releases usually announce DWI checkpoints or they are written in response to questions from reporters.
His solution to better informing the community about safety? He says we can contact police anytime we have questions and he will try to have someone get back to us with answers.
In fairness, Sanders often responds to questions himself, all hours of the day and night. And he’s appointed a captain to answer questions during business hours.
But how are we supposed to ask questions about a bomb in city hall if nobody lets us know they had one?
Should we call him today and every day to ask if multiple businesses were vandalized overnight? If senior citizens have been targeted for home invasions? If any escaped zoo animals are suspected in connection with a number of missing children?
We wonder what community safety issues are stalking Clovis that no one know has ever thought to ask about?
Wouldn’t it be more responsible if Sanders notified the public — the best way we know to do that is through the media — when there is cause for concern?
Relationships between police and media across the country have long been guarded.
Law officers don’t want to say anything or provide information that might lead to a criminal being freed by the courts. They don’t want reporters — or lawyers or anyone else — getting in the way when they’re investigating crimes.
Meanwhile the media’s job is to pass on as much information as possible to keep their readers, listeners and viewers informed.
While both jobs are important, they sometimes conflict.
And that’s OK.
What’s not OK is when police fail to communicate public safety concerns to the residents and taxpayers they serve.
Steve Sanders needs to be more responsible.