The Unalaska Police Blotter was discontinued this year. For about a decade, it captured international attention with its reports of everything from vampirism to animal mischief.
Many police stations have a way of communicating their whodunnits to the public, but few of them have gained as much worldwide attention as the Unalaska Police Blotter. Soon after the Unalaska Police Department began publishing their weekly activities, they put Jennifer Shockley, then a staff sergeant, in charge.
“It was something that our department decided we wanted to do to basically let the public know what their police officers were busy doing on a day-to-day basis,” says Shockley.
Early on, the blotter began making waves. Shockley received fan mail from around the country. Readers appreciated her blotter’s dry humor. It gave them a window into the lives of police officer in bustling international fishing port in the faraway Aleutians.
Aside from being published often verbatim in local weeklies like the Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman, The Unalaska Police Blotter gained national attention, with articles in the LA Times, Washington Post, and NPR.
Writing the blotter was time consuming. So exercising her expansive vocabulary and comically understating the absurd situations law enforcement handles was Shockley’s way to make the chore more palatable.
“It wasn’t really so much a conscious decision. It was more just a style that developed over the years,” she explains. “I enjoy creative use of words, so I peppered the blotter with a couple of interesting words. I tried to put some humor in situations where I could.”
By way of example, these are some of the records that appeared in the Bristol Bay Times over the years:
Officers investigated a report of an assault that occurred between two besotted individuals. The two had a disagreement concerning one of the sots consuming the alcohol of the other sot. Sot one, the owner of the alcohol, chased sot two, the consumer of the alcohol, down the hallway of the bunkhouse. None involved wished to pursue charges.
A drunken man phoned police and said he was naked, cold, and exposing himself to passing vehicles and in need of assistance. He was unable to name or describe his location. Officers searched the common and not so common haunts of naked drunks but did not find the man in question.
Caller reported that someone was feeding the eagles causing a hazard as one of the eagles had flown into her truck. Officers investigated and discovered that the eagles were not being fed but were congregating, as eagles are known to do.
Shockley was promoted to Deputy Chief about a year ago, and putting her witty spin on calls for service is no longer in her wheel house. She says the department doesn’t have the staff to keep up the blotter.
“It was something that takes about eight to 10 hours a week to do. We’re operating at about 60-70% capacity with our staffing right now, and we just really need to spend our time focusing on law enforcement activities.”
As this staff sergeant turned author with an international following reflects on her years maintaining the blotter, a couple of the stories have stuck with her.
In one instance, she says, police rendered assistance to a cyclist being chased by a herd of feral horses. In another case, also involving a cyclist, police stopped a young man riding a bicycle downtown late at night.
“He had blood on himself,” she says. “When he was stopped by an officer, he told the officer that his girlfriend had turned him on to vampirism, but he wanted to get out of it. He was on his way to the Catholic church to be exorcized.”
Shockley will miss writing up the week’s shenanigans, and she knows the readers miss it too. Calls for Unalaska Police to respond to drunken sailors, sinister eagles, and unruly horses won’t stop, but writing about them will. At least for now.