The Public Information Debate
IRE Conference in Boston This June
March 13, 2012
class blog, class schedule
Hi folks –
Take a read on this story and weigh in with your thoughts on the comments board.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 02:59:21
This seems like a lack of knowledge on the parts of police departments around the state. I understand that most of the time we think individuals are trying to deny us information, but a number of agencies in this story did provide the requested information. It seemed like the ones that didn’t provide the information weren’t properly versed on this law which comes down to those departments not being up to standard. This is very useful information, especially considering most of the cities and towns named are in this area. I’m also curious if the people in the piece who requested the information told the departments that denied them they were breaking the law or not before they left. I’m sure the reactions of those departments was priceless.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 03:15:07
This story is full of classic red tape. Many of the officers didn’t recognize their wrongdoings, but I can understand why they would get defensive and protective if the situation rarely occurs. It would be interesting to see how often individuals request to view police logs at different stations (although I’m sure the PDs don’t keep track of that, unless they are running background checks on all inquiries and keeping a log for their own record).
Question: Are fire departments required to provide dispatch logs, or reports of any sort? Not sure if that falls under public ‘right to know’ but I thought of it when I saw a group of firemen going into a house today (it wasn’t on fire).
Mar 13, 2012 @ 13:13:51
This story has to do with something I’ve had to deal with myself. When I was a reporter for The Eagle-Tribune I sometimes had to walk five minutes up the street to the Haverhill police station. The first time I walked in and asked for the police log they did ask for my name, and possibly my driver’s license (although I can’t remember for sure). However, I do remember telling them I’m a reporter from The Eagle-Tribune. I waited 3-5 minutes for an officer or receptionist working at the front desk to pass me the daily log through the slot. I think the only reason they asked for my name, which is illegal, is because I wasn’t the reporter who usually wrote up the police log for the following days paper. After the first time they recognized me and I had the paper in my hand within 30 seconds.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 15:59:05
I had a similar experience to Matt as I also wrote for a newspaper in Haverhill and had to take the same walk up to the police station to get the log. I found it came down to individual officer’s ignorance or annoyance. Whereas the institution has policies and laws they have to follow, not every individual officer is fully aware of them or doesn’t care about them. The times when I had a officers who I would say were less than adept at customer service are the times when getting the log was more of a chore, like when an officer was annoyed to have to photocopy the log for me, and that would happen every now and then. At my previous college, I would get the police log for the paper as well, and our newspaper actually had some problems in the past with the campus security not putting items into the log in the time required, and they have to follow similar rules with the Cleary act. Ultimately, this all came down to either ignorance of the law or not really caring about the law, to us as journalists these public information access laws are sacred, but not everyone who has to comply with these laws holds them in such high regard.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 17:36:14
I think the police officers may be a little hesitant to give out the police records because they are either nervous for security reasons or are just ignorant to the law. It just shows that with multiple stations asking for identification that the officers aren’t abiding by the law in several areas and many people aren’t aware that it is against the law for them to even ask for our I.D. Anyone should be able to get these records, no matter what the reasoning.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 17:38:01
This article is extremely disconcerting to read, especially as a journalist. Information that is supposed to be readily available to the public, without question, should be just that. Police officers have no right to run background checks on those inquiring about public information. I think this article shows how important it is for citizens to know their rights. People need to know that this information should be given to them without handing over their ID or offering motives behind their inquiry. My question is-if I were to refuse to hand over my ID in exchange for public information-would the police deny me the information? And if so, what action could I then take against them?
Mar 13, 2012 @ 18:09:07
It’s clear to see that many police departments around the state are either unaware that the public has the right to these public records, or they are all just do not abide by the law. I can understand why a police officer would be a little hesitant to hand over public records, especially if it is a rare occurrence. However, these officers should be well aware of the law and should not question citizens reasoning for wanting to access this information. I think it is a good thing that this situation is being handled by the state police and will hopefully eliminate all suspicion of those trying to access public records. Though I do believe it is wrong that police dispatchers are requiring forms of identification and reason for a person who wants to get a hold of public records, I do not believe that it is intentional. I believe it is just lack of knowledge of the situation.
Mar 13, 2012 @ 18:20:28
I’ve had this experience as well. When writing a spot story for Journalism 300, I was instructed to go to the police department and essentially just “find” a story. I figured I’d walk in, request the log, look through it, and put together a short story on whatever information I could find. When I got there, I asked for the record and they asked me why. I told them I was a reporter at UMass looking for a story and they instead told me about a story that would be good to write about. When I asked to see the log, the officer continued to just tell me the story rather than give it to me. I didn’t protest too much because I wasn’t clear on the law, but I realize now (and also realized it when I got a B on the story).
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