There have been several concerns about arrest records being shared with the community and confusion about how we get the information.
So instead of my usual column, I decided to spell it out and explain the process.
First and foremost, arrest records are public record, meaning anyone in the community can request them at any time from the city. When I say anyone, I mean kids and adults.
Public records are stored and organized by public entities so that we (the public) don’t have to. That would be a lot of paperwork. All public documents are technically the general public’s property.
When a person gets arrested, cited or summoned, the officer will write out what is called a criminal complaint, which describes the incident and charges — if there are any. This is a copy and defined as a record.
According to the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), I can request these copies for distribution, and it is completely legal.
A person is charged if they are arrested. Let me clarify, though, that this does not mean that they were convicted. It means the police are labeling an incident so they can send it to court for them to decide if the person is guilty or not.
A person is summoned when they committed a crime but can’t be arrested because they are not present or the crime isn’t a danger to themselves or the public.
A citation is exactly like it sounds. This occurs when you speed, break traffic laws, etc.
But why does the Rio Rancho Observer publish these records? Isn’t that an invasion of privacy? Won’t people lose their job if their employer sees they were arrested?
Writing for a newspaper is supply-and-demand based. If the readers keep reading a topic, we will keep publishing it.
The last set of arrest records got more than 2,000 views since being published.
Also, to be completely blunt, if you don’t want your name in our paper, don’t commit a crime. I know that sounds mean, but the content is also supply and demand. The paper will keep publishing as long as there is a supply of crime. If people keep committing criminal acts, the paper will keep running it.
Now, there are a few requirements and ethics that I have to follow when requesting and writing records. Ethically, I shouldn’t share the name of a victim who is a minor, who has been sexually assaulted or is the victim of domestic violence. I shouldn’t share someone’s home address because people are horrible and would definitely snoop around.
If a crime is committed by a minor, it is completely ethical and legal to share all information provided by police about the incident. Especially if it is a really bad crime like murder or rape.
To get these records, anyone can use the city’s public record portal to request them. You do not have to be a current resident. You can request your records or someone else’s.
For the full rundown of IPRA, people can visit the attorney general’s website or do a quick search of the Inspection of Public Records Act. Each county and city also has different methods to request.