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Thursday, July 25, 2013

When "Do Not Distribute or Post Publicly" Means Nothing

This week, the Janesville Police Department began a bizarre "no serve list" alcohol campaign by distributing a letter and a list of names of offending heavy drinkers to all licensed alcohol vendors in the city.

The letter included pages detailing the names, ages, heights and weights of 10 individuals on the department's first "no serve" list. Seven of the names have mug shots accompanying them. Besides the seemingly obvious persecution of individuals without due process and a potential for blacklisting abuse, the department also does an Orwellian double-speak regarding alcohol establishments. On one hand they state, "businesses are not required to comply with the policy and won’t face a fine if they sell to someone who’s barred." However, "if businesses consistently disobey, their business could be referred to the alcohol licensing committee."

Also in the JPD letter was a request that the names on the list be kept private.

JPD Letter Excerpt:
Attached you will find a copy of the Janesville Police Department "No Serve List." This is a list of individuals you should decline the purchase of alcohol. This is a list for internal use only by you and your employees. Do not distribute or post it publicly.

Emphasis is theirs.

So, what does the Janesville Gazette newspaper do with this list? Why they publish it of course!

Remember, the Gazette is the sort of newspaper that thought an independent filmmaker owed a local political business group the omission of statements relevant to the story as an unwritten courtesy for recording access. Yet at the same time they openly publish information that comes with a clear request not to do so.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't locate the letter on the Janesville Gazette site. Is it only in the paper edition?

Lou Kaye said...

You can access the letter below. copy/paste

Anonymous said...

Hah! I thought the same thing! Do you know if the Gazette broadcast the names at their radio stations?

Anonymous said...

To think that these names wouldn't come out is blaming the messenger.
I was at a tavern after a round of golf and the employees - including the bar owner - were openly discussing the list and the names on it with customers.
If the police didn't want the names published, they could've not sent them to the Gazette.
It also is significant from an open government point of view. Unless the publication of information compromises an ongoing investigation, it is public record. Guess we'd rather not know what are police and other public officials are doing...

Lou Kaye said...

First of all I think it's absolutely wrong for a body of government to classify free citizens as anything but free to do their will. We have laws on the books and a judicial system for wrongdoing and if that needs to be strengthened - so be it. That's my opinion. But making the assumption that the police department has some expectation from private institutions to cooperate, and the story implies some cooperation between them, in their prevention scheme by keeping a lid on the names, only for the Gazette to go ahead and publish the names - leaves some question as to the newspapers motive. The Gazette at some point made the discretionary decision to post the names against the police request, possibly in the name of transparency. It's true if the police didn't want the names published, why would they send them to the Gazette? So I don't put it past anyone that that is what the police may have intentionally wanted. But we can be drawing hypotheticals on this day all if we want and that is where I draw the simple observation that a simple request has been made - in bold - and completely ignored. If it doesn't matter - than nothing matters in what they are trying to accomplish.

Anonymous said...

Is that the Nanny State I smell? Or did a Wisconsin Holstein do a projectile defication?

I'm thinking, "Welcome to the ongoing nanny drama that is the new Amereica...,

Bob Keith; why is everyone mad at me?

Anonymous said...

Oh by the by, ain't this a Double Jeopardy issue. Did these ex-perps already serve their time?

Looking at the law angle; but, I doubt anyone in Janesville has ever opened a law book...,

Bob Keith; are you all still made at me?

Lou Kaye said...

Hey Bob! Appreciate your remarks but I'm not sure I smell a nanny state on this one. They seem to have identified a problem with some residents and identified its high costs. But the JPD have no intentions of coddling those on the list or spending any taxpayers money to hold their hand through rehab. Their entire scheme seems to be on cutting them off from government services in an effort to save money. That doesn't sound like nanny state to me.

bob keith said...

Wow, complicated "Nanny State" definition variations.

I guess my definition of nanny state antics fits the JPD's behavior: Make taverns do their dirty work..., it's voluntary, but do it, or else. The Constitution be damned. Perhaps we could expand this to every one's drinking habits. After all, we have countless ways to document all our debaucheries.

And, just a peripheral thought, won't this policy drive these "list" perps to just drink in Edgerton, et cetera?

Instead of dealing with their alcohol dependency, we will force them to Evansville and Milton.

Hopefully, their sister-in-laws will drive them to the next towns over.

Way to solve a systemic problem Janesville. Send them to Newville.

Bob Keith; have met a drunk or two now and then...,

Lou Kaye said...

Bob, glad you returned. Now I get your drift. I agree (if it matters) with everything in your last comment.

I'll give credit to the JPD for identifying the driver of those costs, but it ends there. Their goal has nothing to do with real solutions for individual alcohol dependency or its systemic problem, only the department's costs and local services associated with them.

The pressure JPD is applying pressure on businesses by way of non-ordinance fiat and creating an ID list stinks rotten, but I see this as an authoritarian mandate and less the result of nanny state thinking.

The Gazette and JPD will likely issue a unified position on this matter if at all just because we're always wrong and everyone knows they are the leaders of the community.

bob keith said...

Yes they sure think they are the leaders...,

But, the leaders of the Titanic thought they were doing a bang-up job too; until that darn iceberg jumped out from behind a tree and sank their parade.

Bob Keith; President, Janesville Cynics' Association

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