Sheriff Tom Allman Comments on KMUD's "Traffic Reports"
KMUD, our local radio station recently had a conversation with Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman. Allman is concerned about the station’s policy of publishing the directions official vehicles are proceeding when engaged in raids. The California Report picked up this conversation and reported on it a few days ago.
KMUD explained to The California Report, a weekly radio magazine, that “”We’re not actually broadcasting their whole operations. We’re just giving the public an awareness that there are ten trucks heading down a very narrow road with one lane portions of it with tight turns. Again our reports are quite benign.”
Sheriff Allman responded, “”I can understand that there has been abuses of law enforcement in the past. And there have been situations that the community wanted to know where and what law enforcement was doing. And the other side, the law enforcement side is, I don’t want a situation where someone has a really good idea where law enforcement is and they head in their direction and set up either barrier or set up a confrontation for law enforcement.”
This report has stirred a minor media fuss. Under the heading “Humboldt Radio Station’s Pot Raid Reports,” The San Francisco Chronicle’s online version weighed in today on that conversation describing our local community station as offering “the usual lineup of music, news and traffic reports.” When contacted about another matter on which he was unable to comment, Sheriff Allman explained his concerns about KMUD reporting on the whereabouts of officers. He said he wasn’t concerned about the local people really, instead, he was concerned about outsiders who are proving to be more violent than the normal local grower. He described how last August in Covelo, a Hispanic leveled a rifle at an agent and fired a shot before disappearing into the bushes. Allman stated that in the past “…growers would flee and run…” from hunters who had stumbled into their patches but now there are more instances of “…armed individuals yelling at [the hunters] in Spanish to leave.” He is concerned that KMUD’s coverage may lead to an armed ambush.
Personally, I believe that while it is slightly more possible that the targets of the investigations may hightail it out of the area before officers arrive, I think it is also more likely that less violence will occur because it is surprised and frightened people who panic and act violently. Whereas, those who know that officers are arriving are most likely to divests themselves of guns in the hopes of lessening any penalties if they are caught. Also, I question whether, if Hispanics are the of the greatest concern, Spanish speakers would be likely to be listening to KMUD–a largely English language station.
Nonetheless, I applaud Tom (who is a personal friend) for being so open to discussing his point of view on a public radio station and with me. I think this is indicative of his character and I wish more public officials were as open to public conversation as he is.
UPDATE: Tom supports the public radio stations. As he says that KMUD and KZYX provided extraordinary coverage of the Mendocino Fires a few years ago and he applauds them. However, he says, what they are broadcasting about officers’ whereabouts can be used “for good– it can be used for bad. I know of at least one single case where someone called in and reported that the officers were going to Alderpoint when in fact they were going to Briceland. He thought it was funny.” Tom goes on to say, “We all have enough stress in our lives without that kind of misinformation.”
Tom also pointed out approvingly that KMUD “… [hasn’t] nor will they broadcast a specific address where the officers are at.” This obviously relieves him. He agrees that the media has a right to speak out and in fact, as he was eager to say, “[Mendocino] gives out more media information than almost any other sheriff’s office.” The Sheriff’s website, Mendocino Sheriff.com, frequently offers same day mugshots of those arrested as well as bulletins on officer’s activities.