Wisconsin paper defies police, publishes names of problem drinkers bars are asked not to serve

A recent Janesville Gazette story outed 10 of the city's most notorious problem drinkers.
The Janesville, Wisconsin, Police Department is taking a novel approach to dealing with 10 of the most notorious drunks in the city by putting together a "No Serve List" of folks bars in the city are asked not to serve.

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While distributing the list to bars and the media, police attached a memo saying, "Do not distribute or post it publicly." But that didn't stop the Janesville Gazette from going ahead and splashing the 10 names on the front page of the paper last week.

Here, via the Romenesko journalism blog, is an image of the Gazette's front page story (click to enlarge):


As explained by the Gazette's story, each person on the list has had at least three "negative police contacts" while intoxicated in the past six months, including trips to jail or detox, all of which require the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

"Your unwillingness or inability to drink responsibly is causing the Janesville Police Department to dedicate an unfair and unequal amount of resources to your habitual intoxication," reads the letter sent to the people on the list by police.

In an email, Janesville Police Department Deputy Chief Dan Davis told Romenesko, "Our preference would have been that the names wouldn't have been published [by the Janesville Gazette], but we have obligations under the open records law."

In his own email to Romenesko, Janesville Gazette editor Scott Angus was unrepentant about his paper's decision to run the names:
The police can request what they want, but we aren't an arm of law enforcement. We do what we think we should and what we think our readers expect and want...

Editors and the reporter discussed whether to use the names, and we couldn't come up with a good reason not to. That's generally our standard. Names are news, and we generally lean toward using them - unless there's a good reason to omit them...

Yes, publishing the names sets the 10 up for some amount of public ridicule, but so be it. They have been chronic abusers of public resources funded with tax dollars, and the police chose them for this list. We're just passing on the information. As an editorial we've written for this weekend states, maybe that ridicule will be what these people need to finally get help.
But as one commenter points out, perhaps the most surprising thing about this story is that a Wisconsin city with a population of more than 63,000 has only 10 names on its list of folks who drink way too much.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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