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Gary Borders: Sunshine Law had chickens at its heart
I was reminded of the Sex With Chickens story recently when passing a truck loaded with them, headed to the processing plant. That reminded me of a fight I had with the Leander Police Department four years ago over releasing police reports while running a paper there.
These are public records, but the department wouldn’t release them. To an ink-stained, Freedom of Information stalwart like yours truly, those were fighting words. This is public information, by gosh, and no small-town department is going to keep us from what anyone has the right to obtain — the so called first page of incident reports. Besides, police reports make for some really excellent reading.
People do the dumbest things to end up in the blotter.
Recently an area newspaper reported a woman was arrested for stabbing her husband because he was snoring. I am entirely opposed to such behavior, out of a sense of self-preservation. We don’t want this type of response to spread. Not when One has been accused many times of snoring.
I started my quest to force the Leander police department to obey the law — a novel concept, admittedly, them being peace officers and all. I had a pleasant conversation with the city manager. As always, he was affable but made it clear I would have to work it out with the chief.
“It’s that chicken story,” he said. This was not the first time I had heard that rationale for why the Leander police department wouldn’t release police reports. The newspaper, long before I arrived, had supposedly run a police item describing in graphic detail a complaint about a man having sex with chickens. It was told as gospel truth that the newspaper had actually dropped the F-bomb in describing what had occurred.
I found this a bit hard to believe. Community newspapers — even mediocre or badly run ones — shy away from using profanity in their pages. The F-bomb tops the list of Words You Won’t See in a Family Newspaper.
I went sleuthing and found the offending Sex With Chickens story, written in 2005. It reads, in whole:
“June 6 At approximately 6 p.m., a 50-year-old woman came to the police department and told an officer that she wished to file a complaint regarding a man in the 300 block of North Brushy who she saw having sex with chickens.According to the complainant, who lives next to the subject, two men live in the home, an older man who owns chickens, and a younger man who is stealing them and having sex with them, causing them to die. The woman refused to give further information and is not willing to work with the police department. It is undetermined whether the information is accurate, as there is no evidence supporting this charge. The case has been forwarded to investigators.”
There is no way any self-respecting newspaper person is going to keep this out of the paper. This is pure gold, folks. It is what we used to call a water-cooler story, folks standing around talking about the piece. The same edition might have broken a major scandal at City Hall, or published a prize winning series about sewer collection issues. No matter. The story that folks would be talking about is some crazy dude having Sex With Chickens. We filed a complaint with the attorney general over the refusal to release reports and wrote the usual impassioned editorial, to which readers largely yawned. The Leander PD, after a few more weeks of obfuscation, saw the light and began releasing reports. Another small victory for sunshine in government, I suppose. I was simply thankful we did our small part to make neighborhood chickens safe from sexual assault.