Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Is a “technical arrest” really an arrest in the public eye? If police pull over a vehicle on the street and give the driver a ticket on a speeding charge, should the press report that as an arrest? If dispatch sends officers to investigate a “suspicious vehicle,” and police find teens in the vehicle smoking pot, give the teens a municipal citation, and then send the teens on their way, should the press report that as an arrest?
From 2007 until now, the answer was yes. But the understanding of an arrest has evolved with the current leadership in the Park Forest Police Department. And police want the public to know that there is now a difference.
And we’re fine with that at eNewsPF.com.
The Background On Covering Park Forest Police Reports
In January 2007, eNews Park Forest began reporting on local police matters. We called the first article”The Police Report,” published on January 8, 2007. Our first real story, “Welcome to eNewsPF.com,” was published the previous September. Between September and contacting the Park Forest Police Department to begin police reports, we did research on how we should report such matters to the public.
Our introduction to the public in our first report focused both on the public’s right to know what was happening in town, as well as letting the public know the incredible amount of work conducted by members of the Park Forest Police Department.
“Besides covering the many stories from around Park Forest that otherwise might go unnoticed, we want to bring more complete coverage of police reports than is reported by other local media,” we wrote at the time. “It was not simply a matter of showing up at the police station and asking to see reports. We worked for several months at eNews to establish this publication as a fully credentialed news source.”
“The police were very accommodating the first time went to the station to read reports,” we continued. “Two file folders were presented to our reporters, each one filled with reports of police calls. Officers were nearby ready to answer any questions our reporters had regarding specific calls.”
Finally, our rationale for reporting on police matters: “We are reporting this information because the public in the United States has the right to know, unlike any other nation in the world. When that information is withheld or under-reported, it leaves questions. We also want to show the work that the police force does every day that is not reported. Police in Park Forest respond to over 23,000 calls per year. Whether it’s conducting a routine investigation, pulling over a drunk driver, or responding to a possible theft at a store, the work of the police officer needs to be taken into account by the public. We intend not only to report on crime, but on cases solved as well.”
A few months later, we fielded questions from residents over what, exactly, was an arrest? The reports police provided to us would say, “Cleared By Arrest,” even if the matter involved a municipal citation. So, if someone received a municipal citation because of a loose dog, was that an arrest?
Technically, yes. Here’s then-Police Chief Tom Fleming at the time, “A traffic ticket is an arrest. If you get stopped and you’re issued a traffic citation, that’s technically a traffic arrest. A citation, like our M-Ticket, is an arrest. You basically are not free to go until you get your paperwork for us to let you go. That’s an arrest. You’re being detained for us to complete that paperwork.”
If charges are eventually dropped in court or before a court hearing, that does not change the circumstances surrounding the issuance of a ticket or citation, an arrest, Fleming said. “The charge can be dropped when it gets to court for a lot of different reasons,” Fleming said, “The disposition of the case does not change what happened at the beginning of it.”
Think about it. If one is pulled over by an officer, one may not leave until the officer says one can leave. Technically, one is “under arrest.”
But is it really an arrest if one simply receives a traffic ticket? Or, for that matter, if one receives a municipal citation and is then free to go?
According to what we were told in May 2007, yes, a technical arrest is an arrest. While we did not receive, nor did we request, reports on every traffic citation written, we could have listed each one of those tickets as an arrest. With around 23,000 calls for service and officer-initiated calls in 2007, we would have needed a separate publication, a few databases more than we have now, and, well, all the time in the world to compile these reports.
On The Evolution Of An Arrest
After the last batch of police reports were published, Chief Christopher Mannino contacted eNews Park Forest: “I see in your blotter where it indicates we ‘arrested’ someone with cannabis. While the word has a rather imprecise definition in common use , we don’t consider a traffic stop that results in the issuance of a municipal citation for Possession of Cannabis [sic] an arrest any more than if they received a ticket for speeding. An arrest is if someone is taken into custody and transported to the police department for processing, which we don’t do for simple Possession of Cannabis offenses. It may seem like semantics, but from a legal processes standpoint, there is an important distinction. Much thanks.
I wrote back and indicated the understanding of an arrest we had been working with since 2007 under Chief Tom Fleming, especially when the report said, “Cleared By Arrest.” Chief Mannino responded, “For classification purposes, it would have a CBA [Cleared By Arrest] clearance because it’s a criminal offense, even though we are not treating it as a criminal offense. And when Tom was Chief, we were making those arrests by taking the person into custody.
“As Deputy Chief I changed that under Chief Green to issuing municipal citations without an arrest. I just don’t want the public to think we are taking people into custody for simple possession cases.”
eNews Park Forest welcomes this change of policy. If someone is issued a municipal citation, one must still report to court, but one reports to municipal court, the local court, in the Park Forest Police Station. One generally is not physically arrested, taken into custody, with a criminal charge to be heard in Markham. Some who are physically arrested, taken into custody, do receive municipal citations and traffic citations in addition to other charges that we might understand as, well, more criminal in nature.
This is important for a number of reasons. Many of us can relate to someone who is pulled over for speeding. Many of us may have our stories about such instances. While, technically, we were “arrested” during the time it took for the officer to write our ticket, we would not consider this an arrest, and certainly would not report to friends and colleagues that we were “arrested and given a speeding ticket.”
Moving forward, beginning with our next batch of police reports, we will endeavor to keep such a distinction between a “technical arrest” and an “actual arrest,” the latter being reserved for those who are actually taken into custody and processed at the police station. This will include municipal citations given for possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia. If a person was not taken into custody, it will not be reported as an arrest.
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