Idaho police department bars officers from talking with reporters on weekends

An Idaho police department has prohibited its officers from speaking to reporters who call on weekends under a new policy that went into effect on Monday.

Lewiston Police Chief Chris Ankeny told the Lewiston Tribune Thursday that the change is needed because there isn’t enough staff to answer press inquiries between Friday and Sunday. Under the policy, reporters must arrive at the crime scene to get a “sound bite” or brief synopsis from an officer.

Dispatchers are also barred from providing reporters with information. Previously, officers fielded calls from reporters at their convenience during the weekend hours.

Ankeny said the move would “improve information flow and ensure accurate, timely and transparent reporting of information.”

City Councilman Jesse Maldonado called the new policy disquieting.

"City residents reading the newspaper, their interest doesn't stop on Friday," he said. "That's just not how it works."

The new policy also mandates that reporters submit written questions between noon and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday to allow officers time to research and provide accurate answers.

Mayor Jim Kleeburg says the new policy can always be changed if he feels public information is being impeded.

Lewiston's policy is starkly different from those at surrounding law enforcement agencies. Asotin County Sheriff John Hilderbran says he gives his cellphone number to reporters, while the Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office gives reporters access to call logs and personnel during regular business hours.

Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hasting says Lewiston is moving away from the national trend of promoting community policing policies.

"As an agency we have a good, efficient, working relationship with the media and we keep those channels of communication open," Hastings said. "It's about the police department being part of the community and not segregated."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.