Harlan KSP Threatens Local Media Outlets Causing First Amendment - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Harlan KSP Threatens Local Media Outlets Causing First Amendment Debate

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HARLAN, Ky. (LEX 18) - Kentucky State Police Harlan Post PIO Shane Jacobs stirred controversy after sending an email to two local news agencies warning them against publishing information on the post's investigation without personal confirmation from the agency. 

The letter was sent on behalf of Jacobs to the Mountain Advocate newspaper and radio station WRIL. 

Good afternoon, I would like to start out by saying that I feel I have a great working relationship with the media in our area. I work many hours and sometimes on my days off to relay information to the media outlets.  I want you guys to know I do have a personal life and sometimes I can’t respond to your e-mails as quick as you would like. I am out of town at times spending it with my family. I have trainings, State Fair, Trooper Island, and other events I have to attend, which causes me to be out of town also.

I say all this to say this, from this point forward when KSP is working an investigation, you are to wait until OUR (KSP) press release is sent out before putting anything out on social media, radio, and newspaper. No more posting inaccurate information from Sheriff’s or anyone else. I don’t care to confirm something and then get a release out later.

Authority of my supervisors, if this continues, you will be taken off our media distribution list.

Media often uses other first responders to confirm information when they are on the scene of an incident when Kentucky State Troopers aren't available. 

The Mountain Advocate responded with the following in an article on their site.

“We believe our community is best served when an independent, free press works closely with all law enforcement agencies. Our mutual goal should be to keep the public fully informed and protected. For the KSP to tell us we can only report what the KSP, when they want to say it, and we must ignore any and all other sources, that’s crazy. Any professional journalist would consider a publicly elected law enforcement professional like our Sheriff as a credible source. Sheriff Smith has 27 years of law enforcement experience, 24 of which with KSP itself. To tell us we can’t quote someone like him, or an eyewitness, or a local police chief? And, for them to threaten us with removal from their media list is at best misguided," publisher Jay Nolan stated.

Brian O'Brien, who works at WRIL and was one of the recipients of the email was taken aback, saying he had worked hard to build good relationships with local law enforcement. He gave LEX 18 this statement:

I have always felt that establishing a working relationship between the media and law enforcement is important.  It’s vital when presenting the issues and events of the day in a respectful and factual manner. 

I realize that there are often times that issues are sensitive and still in the investigative phase. We have never interfered with or hampered an investigation with our coverage and we never will. 

The Kentucky S
tate Police have a job to do and an obligation to the communities they cover and so do we. I believe that we both do our jobs to the best of our ability and are susceptible to open criticism from the public.  At times that is also true from those we work with.  I would hope that an open line of communication can continue with Kentucky State Police as well as any other law enforcement entity.

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