Of the many blogs written by outside contributors to the Arizona Republic‘s website, Bill Richardson’s was perhaps the most critical of the region’s police and their practices.
Now, the retired Mesa police officer says the the state’s largest newspaper has given in to outside pressure from those who wanted his criticism silenced. The newspaper closed down his blog, deleted all his old posts and blocked him from even commenting elsewhere on its website.
“The Republic called me and told me it was being shut down,” Richardson said in an email to Heat City on Tuesday. “They shut down everything and even wiped out my Republic account where I can comment on other people’s blogs or columns.”
Richardson said one of the paper’s opinion editors, Joanna Allhands, called him Monday to tell him the blog was being yanked because of recent posts he had written about the Tempe Police Department.
That decision, Richardson said, came after the department’s police chief, Tom Ryff, and one of his advisers complained about the blog to the Republic.
“The Tempe PD was pissed about my hitting them on crime issues,” Richardson said, pointing to four posts he wrote since the beginning of August, including one in which he said the city “continues to lead the region in violent crime.”
But reached by phone late Tuesday, Allhands flatly denied the move was made because of Richardson’s criticism of Tempe.
“No, that’s not correct,” she said when asked about the allegation. Still, she refused to explain why Richardson’s blog was closed or why his entire archive was deleted from the website.
Allhands called the matter “an internal decision” and referred all other questions to the newspaper’s top editor, Randy Lovely.
Lovely’s assistant, meanwhile, said he was on vacation until next week and would not likely return any phone calls before then.
A Tempe police spokesman also denied that the agency had anything to do with the Republic‘s decision, saying no one there had even voiced concerns about Richardson’s blog.
“To answer your question, no,” Sgt. Steve Carbajal said. “Nobody from the department, including the chief, has made a complaint to the Republic.”
Carbajal said a journalist with another news organization had called to look into the matter on Monday and that was the first he’d heard about it.
Regardless of why, however, it’s clear that the Republic has taken the unusual step of scrubbing Richardson’s work from its website without any public explanation.
Richardson, who also occasionally wrote for the newspaper’s op-ed page, said he was invited by the Republic to start blogging last year.
Since then he has written dozens of posts, many of them focusing on issues in law enforcement as well as in Tempe (that’s where he lives.) He was often critical of police policies, but he sometimes wrote positive stories about local law enforcement, too.
Now, visitors to his former home on the web are greeted with a simple message: “The blog requested does not exist.”
Except that’s not entirely true either; Google cached most of Richardson’s posts from the time he started writing the blog. They are, at least for now, available to anyone who wants to read them.