On NTAs, don’t count on luck

By Bill Felber

A recent caller wanted to know why it was that minor in consumption citations issued to certain area juveniles had not been published in the newspaper. Were we showing favoritism to these particular students because they had some prominence through their involvement in high school activities?

It’s a question we hear once or twice a year, and the answer usually involves either a reader missing something we actually did publish or some inadvertent (on our part) and easily corrected oversight. 

As it turns out, through, neither of those applied to the caller’s inquiry, which uncovered a problem that was broader and more long-standing than anybody realized.

For years this newspaper has published notices to appear — essentially tickets — if (and only if) they are issued for alcohol-related offenses. We do not, for example, publish notices issued with respect to littering or other minor offenses. You and I can debate the philosophical underpinning behind that distinction, which is clearly judgmental, but that’s another debate.

Historically, this distinction has required police officials to do a bit of extra work in order to provide us with the alcohol-related notices, work the officer in charge was willing (and possibly even happy) to do.

Around the first of the year, however, an assignment change at the Riley County Police Depart ment brought a new officer into the position of providing media information, and that officer was not made aware of our interest in the NTA information.

The officer wasn’t trying to be uncooperative; he simply hadn’t been advised. So the information ceased being provided. Candidly, we only noticed its absence when we received that reader’s inquiry.

I’m not happy about the fact that for about four months we have not provided information we consider to be in the public interest. At this stage, however, I see no alternative but to go forward. On the negative side, that means people who received an alcohol-related notice to appear earlier this year and who wanted their name kept out of the paper essentially got lucky.

On the positive side, it means that going forward we’re back into our usual routine with these types of items. That means that if you are ticketed for some sort of alcohol-related offense and you want it kept out of the paper, your luck has run out.

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