Trinidad Colorado

TPD News Media Relations Policy

Policy # 310 - News Media Relations 

  1. Purpose

To establish guidelines for the release and dissemination of information to the news media.

  1. Policy

It is necessary that there be full public disclosure of objectives and policies and an openness in matters of public interest. Consistent with protection of the legal rights of involved individuals and with consideration of the necessity for maintaining the confidentiality of department records and of other primary department responsibilities, the department is to disseminate accurate and factual accounts of occurrences of public interest.

  1. Procedure
  1. Each incident must be considered in light of its particular circumstances. Generally, we are concerned about whether the release of information will hamper an investigation, unnecessarily embarrass or jeopardize an innocent person, or promote pretrial prejudice to the extent that a fair trial becomes difficult or impossible. These concerns are weighed against the public’s need and right to be informed.
  2. When contacted by a member of the news media, a member of this department must refer the person of the media to the Chief of Police or his designee.
  3. The following are established guidelines for the release of information to the media before an arrest:

            May release

1. A description of the exact offense including a brief summary of events.
2. Location and time of offense.

3. Injuries sustained or damages resulting from the action.

4. Identity of the victim. (Except sex assault, child abuse, and at risk adults)

5. Whether or not there are suspects.

6. Information about unidentified suspects such as physical descriptors or vehicle description.

7. Identification of fugitive suspects for whom a warrant has been issued.

8. Criminal background of fugitive when the public should be alerted to danger.

9. Method of complaint (officer observation, citizen warrant, indictment)

10. Length of investigation and name of officer in charge of investigation (undercover operations may require withholding the officer’s identity.)

Will not release

1. Identity of suspects who are interviewed but not charged.
2. Identity of witnesses where such information could subject them to danger or extreme embarrassment, specifically Protection Order violation witnesses.

3. Identity of sex crime, child abuse or at risk adult victims. Race, sex, age is sufficient information.

4. Exact address of sex offense, where such information could lead to the identity of the victim.

5. Exact identifying information about the weapon or other physical evidence.

6. Any information that could be known only to the guilty party, i.e. investigative keys.

7. Information about valuable items stolen.

8. Conjecture about suspects or fugitives.

9. The amount taken in a robbery or burglary.

10. Identity of victims in death investigations until notification of relatives has been made.

11. Misleading or false information (“planted” stories.

   D. The following are established guidelines for release of information to the news media after an adult arrest:

            May release

1. Time and place of arrest.
2. Defendant’s age, sex and City of residence.

3. The exact charge.

4. Facts and circumstances relating to the arrest such as resistance, pursuit, possession or use of a weapon, description of contraband.

5. Identity of the agency or unit responsible for the arrest

6. The name of the arresting officer unless there are unusual circumstances where it is felt that the officer would be jeopardized.

7. Duration of the investigation.

8. Pre-trial release or detention arrangements (including location of detention. Amount of bond available from the jail.)

9. Scheduled dates of various stages of the judicial process from the court.

Will not release

1.  Name of defendant’s employer.
2. Comments about the character or reputation of the defendant.

3. Generally the names of juvenile defendants except where charges involve only: Traffic code violations or violations of game and fish statutes.

4. Prior criminal record of defendant. (Records section may release such information on request of the news media in accordance with state and federal statutes.)

5. Information about the existence or content of a confession, admission, or statement by the accused.

6. The refusal of an accused to make a statement.

7. The refusal of an accused to submit to tests or examinations.

8. Results of any tests or examinations.

9. Description of or results of any laboratory examination of physical evidence.

10. Re-enactment of the crime.

11. Revelation that the defendant directed investigators to the location of a weapon, contraband, or other evidence.

12. Any remarks about the assumed guilt or innocence of the defendant.

13. Comments about the credibility of testimony.

14. If the information for the arrest was derived from an informant.

  1. Copies of police reports will be given to members of the media only in accordance with TPD Policy 300 - Records and federal and state statutes.
  2. News media interviews of subjects in custody are not granted without first consulting the prosecuting attorney having jurisdiction over the matter. Officers may not prevent brief comments by arrestees to reporters while in public places, e.g., while seated in a police car, being escorted through the lobby, etc.

IV. Rules

  1. Any employee releasing information listed as “non–release” items is to report the nature of the release to a supervisor as soon as possible.
  2. The news media shall not be allowed to photograph subjects in custody within areas of department buildings off limits to the public at large. Officers may not prevent photographs of subjects in custody while in public places, e.g., while seated in a police car, being escorted through the lobby, etc.
  3. News media persons shall not be allowed access to private property unless granted permission by the property owner, his agent, or other person in charge of the premises.
  4. Members of the news media shall not be allowed access to any area wherein there lies the possibility that evidence may be damaged, destroyed, or altered until such time that such evidence has been photographed and processed by the appropriate department personnel, and the evidence has been removed or secured.
  5. Members of the news media shall not be allowed access to any area whereby such access would obviously disrupt tactical police plans or operations, or would jeopardize the life of, or present the substantial possibility of injury to, any department personnel or citizen other than the member of the news media himself.
  1. A member of the news media shall not be prevented from having access to an area solely due to the possibility of injury or death to him/her.
  2. If that is the only consideration, he/she shall be advised of the danger then allowed to make the decision to enter on his/her own.
  1. Any time a representative of the news media is denied access to certain information as outlined above; he/she shall be given a courteous explanation of the reasons for such denial.