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Police Blotter Goes Offline Due to Staffing Shortage

You may have noticed that our Albany Police bulletin reports have become less frequent. Here's why.

Beginning in late August, the stopped posting its bulletin reports online. The reason, said Police Chief Mike McQuiston, is that the department no longer has the staffing available to handle the task at this time.

We asked for more information in August, and here's what McQuiston said:

Police will be retiring this month after nearly 30 years of service with the Albany Police Department. As you already know, Martha performs supervisory and records management duties and serves as a periodic dispatcher back-up. In addition, Martha has been instrumental in bridging existing gaps in our technology and services so that we are able to post our police bulletin (AKA Blotter) on our website. With her imminent departure I have authorized adjustments to temporarily spread some of her workload among the remaining support services staff. In doing so, some of the non-essential duties Martha used to perform will cease. I know that you rely on the bulletin posting to share information on the Albany Patch, so I am taking this opportunity to let you know that with Martha’s departure our staffing in the support services section of the police department has dropped to a level that forces me to choose between meeting our essential public safety mission and performing some of the additional duties of her position.

Without detailing the mechanics, logistics and legal mandates, I hope this helps explain to you why we will no longer be able to provide the bulletin. It is important to me to be able to provide this summary information on police activity to our community, but we simply do not have the staff to support this function at this time.  Please feel free to refer your readers to our site on www.crimereports.com for up to date information on select police activity. It doesn’t provide the same information as the bulletin, but it is the best alternative I can offer for the time being. I hope to resume sharing our daily bulletin electronically as soon as possible (and will try to implement a system that provides “block specific” information when we do). Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Albany Patch will continue to make every effort to collect and post . For now, it means a trip to the Police Department, taking photographs of the crime bulletin summaries that are available, converting them to PDF files and summarizing them for our report. 

We can also pull very basic information from crimereports.com, as noted above by Chief McQuiston. We'll do our best to post information as it becomes available. See our here. 

Because there's no longer a dedicated staffer who's able to handle the bulletin at the Police Department, thus far what's been available has been less frequently updated and, in some cases, incomplete. 

Fortunately, the Albany Police Department does tend to be available to answer questions and provide additional information about calls when we request it. We hope to hear more often from our readers when they notice something amiss in their neighborhood and out in the community. That will make requesting timely information about police calls somewhat easier. 

In addition to contacting the Police Department (510-525-7300) when you see suspicious activity in the neighborhood, we hope you'll reach out to Albany Patch via email, at albany@patch.com, and phone, at 510-459-8325.

Jim Beller September 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I have an idea! The city could list a special phone number for police calls about turkeys on the move, elderly Asians taking our recycling and dogs in the park. This number could go directly to the Patch for reporting purposes and free up valuable police time.
RetireToTahiti September 06, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I have an idea! Lets pay obscene retirements to public employees. Then, when they retire we won't have the money to meet staffing needs!
Alan Eckert September 06, 2012 at 04:04 PM
You might not realize this, but Albany's pension program was changed decades ago. That's a major reason the City has been fiscally solvent even in the case of country- and world-wide recession.
Alan Eckert September 06, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I'm going to miss those wonky blotter notes =(
lubov mazur September 06, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Me too %P
RetireToTahiti September 06, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Alan- And what will Police Administrative Services Supervisor Martha King be making per year in retirement? Do tell, if you know so much.
Paul D September 06, 2012 at 04:43 PM
It was always fun reading about cars being broken into and stolen and then going out to check mine!
Joan Roos September 06, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I think communicating with the public IS a valuable use of police time.
Rona September 06, 2012 at 06:24 PM
The Police Department does not use volunteers??? You should be able to in the Admin dept. I used to volunteer for the County Morgue. I was not allowed "in" certain areas due to not being a medical official..but I helped them file, and other Admin. stuff. If its for legality purposes they do not use one, then oh well. But if they don't use any they should put out an Ad on the Albany City webpage. I always go there to look for volunteer jobs. I"m sure someone out there wants to or thinks about being in the force. That would be a good way to start. I wanted to be (and working on it) a Forensic Nurse. That is why I volunteered at the Morgue. I don't know, just a suggestion to be passed on to them if anyone knows anyone on the Albany Police Force. Heck I'll do it, I love my police logs..hahaha..well, if I had the time:P
Rona September 06, 2012 at 06:26 PM
So my point to all that was..in the meantime, use a volunteer until you find another Police blotter you can afford to staff.
Jeff Watts September 06, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Aww, bummer. There goes my favorite ongoing Patch feature.
Alan Eckert September 06, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Where we find out how many times that cranky neighbor calls the cops about dogs in Memorial Park? Plus, I have noticed a slight uptick on articles that were inspired by questions and comments about the blotter events.
Ross Stapleton-Gray September 06, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Does someone at City Hall coordinate volunteer activities? Personally, I'd love to see a volunteer permitted to work a window at the Library, to allow for Friday checkouts of hold books, i.e., be there for an hour or two, taking library cards, matching them to hold books, and fetching them to check out. On light days, they could even fetch requests from the stacks, just like you have at more restricted libraries. Dunno, maybe it's just me, but it's always Friday when it dawns on me that there's a hold book I need to pick up...
Peggy McQuaid September 06, 2012 at 09:33 PM
The library is operated by Alameda County not the City of Albany.
Rona September 06, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Plus most of the volunteers "at" the Library are volunteers. I know because I inquired about a job there and was told no positions available, but I could volunteer, as most of them there behind the counter were anyways (volunteers)..now whether I should of been told exactly that..don't know..but you could always suggest to them Ross to have that position. Worth a shot.
Stephanie Travis September 07, 2012 at 12:47 AM
The School District is in deficit and I believe so is the City. I don’t think either deficit includes the pools’ unfunded operating costs. The previous pool’s deficit was offset by a subsidy from the City, so that problem will wind up in either the City or the School District’s books. About two years after we moved here, because our property taxes were increasing at an alarming rate, I pulled the City’s financials to look at expenditures and revenues. I remember one concern I had was that a year or two before I reviewed the financials the City had approved a much richer contract for safety employees. I believe the City approved a new contract sometime between 2003-04 and 2005-06. Additionally, although Mr. Eckert may be correct in his statement that a system was devised decades ago for paying safety employees, I find it difficult to believe that any union would not renegotiate contacts regarding salaries and benefits many times over a period of decades. Even if some type of basic structure remained in place, if large percentage increases in salaries or pensions were approved, and/or a reduction in allowable retirement ages, the costs to the City would heavily increase.
Peggy McQuaid September 07, 2012 at 01:44 AM
The City of Albany did not give AUSD a subsidy for the pool. Where does that statement originate? These are 2 separate public entities which do not comingle funds.
lubov mazur September 07, 2012 at 02:12 AM
It is my understanding that the city is not allowed by law to run a deficit, and at the end of this fiscal year Albany had a $4000 surplus. I guess that's going to go toward the special election.
James Simmons September 07, 2012 at 01:47 PM
To Tahiti: Considering the fact that they are the lowest paid Police Department in the Bay Area... probably not as much as you think. Another question to ask is how many positions have vacated at the PD within the last year? Volunteers cannot be used for deciding what information can be released, the employee must be held accountable and normally a supervisor, I would imagine.
Rona September 08, 2012 at 12:25 AM
James - No, but a volunteer "CAN" write down and provide the information from the police log or "be a blotter" when they are told they "CAN". That is what I meant. I am responding so no one else would think I meant "volunteers" can go around running amok in the Admin room at the Police station. Things "CAN" be done..I know, I'm a volunteer, and have been at many law offices and hospitals in various departments over my lifetime as well. You write, copy, print,and file, what you are told, and then keep it moving. Simple as that. Now if you have to "BE" an employed staffer to be a police blotter then oh well, that's on them. Simple as that.
James Simmons September 08, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Rona: I'm glad you volunteer, more people should. I volunteered my time for years to help a cause. I also believe that volunteers should be used more at the PD. Yes, volunteers could perform functions while someone decides what can be published. Unfortunately, the person who weeds through all the incidents and decides what can be legally published was the supervisor who just retired. Specially trained and accountable for everything. I used to hear a common phrase by volunteers, "so what are they going to do... Fire me"? The city would be liable for any inapropriate information released. No Rona, I would want a paid employee making that call if I were the city admin.
Alan Eckert September 08, 2012 at 02:48 PM
The blotter is heavily redacted according to the Chief of Police. You are correct about needing the special training and permissions (and motivation) that can be controlled best by a paid position.
Rona September 09, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Well in that case looks like Albany Patch is on their own with the Police Reports. James and Alan - thank you for your point and opinion. I do not hear "that" phrase though very often with volunteers. Or maybe that is because anyone with that attitude (in my situations) are very soon out the door with that attitude. God forbid, many volunteers ever having that attitude. But like you said, you have experienced that and very well could "explain" some circumstances and situations at facilities that use volunteers. I guess I am going on how "I perform" on the job with classified/sensitive information. Once again I was not clear. and it is very interesting to see another "side" of how people feel on where and when "volunteers" should be. Very interesting. (and I'm not being sarcastic..I really am like..oh okay..a different outlook..I get it..) C'est la vie, and end of discussion..well on my part and this discussion. I wish Albany Police the best in every area of there staff and departments.

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