Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Cop-Ed Page

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Cop-Ed Page

Article excerpt


There's something off beat about how weekly papers are jazzing up the police log these days. But are they going too far?

Art can appear where you least expect it. just open up a community newspaper and look at the police log. The who, what, where, and when of petty crime in local communities can seem to be pretty dry, even depressing, most of the time, but a few clever newspaper editors have realized this doesn't mean they can't be funny, creative, or even poetic with the basic facts. The idea seems to be catching on at weeklies across the country.

The father of it all is Kevin Hoover, editor of the Arcata Eye, a community paper in Northern California's Humboldt County whose work has become so well-known that he is currently compiling a collection of his police logs for a book.

Under Hoover, a mundane noise complaint is turned into a Dr. Seuss- esque limerick: "3:55 p.m.: A bongo's percussory drone, Like Lucifer's own metronome, Raged on for an hour, Extending its power, Across Patchouli Plazadome."

Or: "1:12 a.m.: Officials at an all-night Heindon Road diner had some trouble persuading a topless man to put on a shirt, so the other customers could masticate their hash browns in peace without his brazen nipples obtruding on the scene."

Hoover may be the "Living Master" of the police log, as the New York Press deemed him, but other community papers have taken a similarly tongue-in-cheek approach to reporting adventures in their local precinct. Often, the humor of police logs comes from their absurd reality, as in this entry by Charles Mudede of the weekly Stranger in Seattle:

"Officer B. Hope reports that today he was told by a complainant that an unknown woman had driven all the way up from Arizona to reclaim her husband (whom we shall call 'Burt'). The woman believes that she is on 'a mission of God' and that she is [Burt's] true wife. The unknown Arizona woman contends that the complainant stole Burt from her, but now she wants her man back..."

The Argus-Courier, a weekly community paper in Petaluma, Calif., utilizes a terse take on Hoover's more ambitious style:

"7:45 a.m.: Maybe in the rush to get to work on time, this free spirit simply forgot his/her pants. Or perhaps s/he wished to experience an all-over breeze. Whatever the reason, police busted the soul for indecent exposure."

Ralph Gardner Jr. …

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