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Unalaska police blotter comically details wacky crimes of an Alaska fishing town

Jillian RogersThe Arctic Sounder
Creative Commons photo

For any self-respecting news reporter, rewriting the cop blotter for print is a mundane task reserved for rookies or interns. Unalaska's police log, however, is the exception.

And it's all because of Sgt. Jennifer Shockley and her whimsical methods of writing the weekly dealings that local police have with some of the citizens of the small fishing town.

From week to week since about 2006, Shockley, 46, has been documenting minor, and often humorous, criminal activity around Dutch Harbor and sending those logs out into the world for publication through various media outlets.

"The people here like to read it, but they definitely don't want to be featured in it," said Shockley Tuesday from Unalaska. "They just want to read about other people."

Shockley, who was born and raised in Texas, didn't always have a flare for ramping up the blotter. It wasn't until she had been writing it for a while that she realized it could be a little more animated.

"I was looking over some of the early ones not too long ago from mid-2006 and they were pretty bland; boring in fact," said Shockley. "I don't recall exactly trying to have some fun with it or why, but I suspect that there was something amusing and I wanted to portray it as such. When it got published, I realized I could get away with it."

And from there, she's wordsmithed gems like these:

"Officer spoke with two people who both had complaints about the callous and unnecessary things each had said to the other. The officer suggested staying away from one another and ignoring each other's inflammatory iterations."

Or:

"Officer issued a trespass advisement to a poorly potty-trained housemate who routinely voided in the homeowner's houseplants."

Or, better yet:

"Caller reported hearing a fight in progress at a neighboring residence. A wet woman clad only in a bath towel abashedly explained to responding officers that the "fight" they were investigating at her house was simply loud intimate relations."

Shockley goes on only a fraction of the calls she reports on and often creates these amusing tidbits with very little to go on.

Like news reporters, writing the police blotter isn't a task cops are eager to take on either.

"There's still nobody in our department who wants to do it," Shockley said, adding that the assignment was given to her originally because she was a newbie on the force.

Crafting the blotter each week can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. It all depends on the season, she said. Late winter and spring are the busiest time for Unalaska's finest.

"Statistically there are more calls," Shockley said. "And more opportunity for something interesting to write about; more fodder."

Shockley studied Fish and Wildlife at Texas A&M but got into public safety work in the late '90s in Unalaska. Her flare for writing just comes naturally.

And her knack for spinning a yarn has garnered her, the police force, and the community national attention many times over the years.

A few years ago, a reporter from Los Angeles Times reporter wrote a big feature story and since then, Shockley has done numerous interviews for print media, radio and even a few documentary film crews.

"Regularly enough, somebody will take an interest and get it fired it up again," Shockley said. "There's always somebody new wanting to know more about it."

And it's good for the community, she added.

"There are a lot of people around town who talk about it, I haven't heard any negative comments. But people do often say 'this isn't going to be in the blotter, is it?'"

Among the many minor crimes and complaints, Shockley said drunk people urinating on things, namely taxis, are among the most frequent grievances, though vampire-related calls are also quite common.

"Vampire calls are always good for a laugh," Shockley chuckled, adding that calls come in equally for people who think they are vampires or are being attacked my one.

One blood-sucker call in particular stuck out in her mind.

"A guy was riding a bike with blood on his face and arm heading to the Catholic church," Shockley recalled. "He said he was tired of being a vampire." The alleged vampire has a criminal history of biting people and the police were called by the vampire's roommate who was apparently tired of being bitten.

"Alcoholism is a much larger factor than mental issues," Shockley said when asked about the cause of such outlandish occurrences. "About 90 percent of our crime-related calls involve intoxicated people."

Along with reporters and film-makers, Shockley has also been approached by those who want to help her write a book on life as a cop in Dutch Harbor. But, Shockley said, if she's going to write a book, it most likely won't have anything to do with police work.

"I've given it some thought, but right now, I'm too busy with work and graduate school — I just don't have the time that I would want to devote to writing a book.

"Maybe when I retire and look back on (the blotter) but not now." 

This article was originally published in The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is reprinted here with permission.