In my last story here I put out a call for PINAC readers to join with the Open Records Project in a “global” Public Records Request – a request being made by as many concerned citizens as we can enlist in this cause.
The reason for this tactic – is to force the City and Police in Ferguson to fully and faithfully COMPLY with the Public Records Law and thus to not only RESPECT THE LAW, as one should expect of a law enforcement agency, but to also RESPECT THE PUBLIC and OUR RIGHTS.
Here is the first proposed “Global” PINAC Public Records Request.
UPDATE: Interview Regarding the Request and the Records Obtained
If you go to that page – and follow the instructions to “sign” – it will bring you to a page with the TEXT of the request on it. All you have to do is CUT & PASTE that request into an email – and use the provided EMAIL ADDRESSES to send it:
The REQUEST is for a very simple document: the INCIDENT REPORT(S) filed pertaining to the shooting/killing of Brown on August 9th.
BY LAW this is a PUBLIC RECORD – and MUST be provided to you IMMEDIATELY (three days at the latest).
BUT – as with most public agencies – they have nothing but contempt for the law, particularly those laws associated with Citizen rights and accountability of agencies and officials. AS SUCH the Police and City are FALSELY claiming a blanket “open investigation” exemption that precludes them from providing this by having that record exempted during such an investigation.
BUT THAT IS A FALSE CLAIM – and they KNOW IT.
The exemption is for a “report of” an “ongoing investigation.” NOT for public records which may be utilized in or share the same SUBJECT MATTER AS an investigation.
The Incident Report IS NOT the Investigation. It is distinct and independent of it. It is a clear and unquestionable public record. And it must be provided upon request.
By using this tactic – to get hundreds, perhaps if we can – thousands, of requests made for this record – the POINT will be driven home. The public DEMANDS the release of these records; and this is a matter of EXTREME PUBLIC SIGNIFICANCE.
If, however, the City and Police again try the ruse of the “ongoing investigation” exemption – this will provide standing to bring a LEGAL CAUSE OF ACTION to have the records produced under Court Order.
Again – I urge as man of you out there who wish to participate in a substantive way – to make this public records request today – and to SHARE this ACTION with as many others as you think might also be willing to participate.
If you do – and when you get emails in response to this request – I ask that you forward those emails to me at email@example.com
Thanks – and lets see what we can accomplish together.
Here is the TEXT of that request:
This is a formal request for PUBLIC RECORDS pursuant to Chapter 610 Missouri Revised Statutes (the Missouri Sunshine Law).
I am hereby requesting, as is required by law to be provided, the following public record:
Any and all INCIDENT REPORTS submitted related to the shooting and death of Michael Brown on August 9th, 2014.
THIS IS NOT a request for records of the INVESTIGATION into this matter. Thus if you respond to this that these records are not available at this time because of an ongoing investigation – you will be VIOLATING THE LAW and as this is notice to you that there is no such exemption pertaining to INCIDENT REPORTS in Missouri law – if you make such a claim – your violation will be KNOWING and WILFUL – and will constitute not only an offense under Missouri Law but will constitute a knowing and willful violation of your OATH OF OFFICE.
Any police officer who knowingly and willfully violates the law – or does not deem the police to be subject to the law – has no business in law enforcement or public service. I hope you will not try and play this game – and thus require this matter to be litigated to obtain what is, by law, already and always the RIGHT of the citizens to obtain.
This record, again, has no specific exemption in Missouri statute. If you DO claim such an exemption – please CITE the EXACT and EXPLICIT STATUTORY language that you are relying upon – and provide all of the rest of the record, that is not exempt, without delay. (See 610.023.4)
As this is a matter of great public concern and as this is a routine request for a simple record that is readily at hand – I would like to receive this record, in electronic format, via email NO LATER THAN THREE DAYS FROM RECEIPT OF THIS REQUEST. Please send the record to the email address used for this request. (See 610.023.3)
AGAIN – to REITERATE: This is a request for a routine record filed in every incident involving an officer. It is NOT, in any way shape or form, a request for “the report” of any “ongoing investigation.” The fact that there MAY be an “ongoing investigation” into the SAME MATTER dealt with in these reports – DOES NOT LEGALLY CONSTITUTE the record a “report of” or a “portion thereof” an “ongoing investigation.” The two are LEGALLY DISTINCT and DISTINGUISHABLE – as you are fully well aware.
As of this morning nearly 150 requests were made in this unprecedented “Global” Public Records Request.
However, in a routine follow up via the phone, I spoke with Lt. Burk of the St. Louis County Police Department’s Records Division.
He stated that their system went down and had only just gotten back online when I spoke with him. He stated he had not gotten my request – nor nearly all of the other 150 requests. I have since forwarded him a copy of mine and about 50 of the others. I am in the process of contacting those whose requests are not yet on the record to resend them. I have also asked for a copy of all of his incoming emails (not the body – but the list of emails) since yesterday. Both to check the veracity of the claim that the emails of these requests have “disappeared” – which, if other emails during that same time period “appeared,” would be problematic; and to find out which requests have or have not been received – so that he gets the complete set.
More significantly – I spoke to Lt. Burk directly about what I was requesting (and what all others sending in this request are requesting). I stated to him that I am requesting the “Incident Report,” that this is not a request for the “Report of the Investigation” into the incident, which are two distinct things – the latter exempt while the investigation is on-going, the former NOT exempt under the law – even during an investigation, and even if that record is used WITHIN that investigation. (This “open-investigation” exemption claim was provided to the ACLU to deny them the Incident Report. The ACLU has filed a legal action on this.).
He agreed with me that the Incident Report was not exempt and was a Public Record. He did question me, however, asking if I knew what was “in” an incident report. I stated yes, I did known, and that I recognized that some of the particular information (such as a social security number) does have an applicable exemption. Thus I stated that I recognized that some of that information could be redacted in the copy that I am provided under the public records law.
I am still waiting for this record. As I stated – Lt. Burk agreed it is not subject to the investigation exemption. He has agreed to provide it. In a further follow up call, however, it is clear that he is not making the final decisions (although this one is going to be tough to back out of now that he has stated to me it is clearly not exempt, as they initial claimed to the ACLU). He did not say there was any problem producing the Incident Report. He stated my SECOND request may be problematic in the view of the Legal Counsel for the Department – the request for his incoming emails since yesterday. I was a bit surprised at this claim – as it is clear that he has heard that this was going to be a tactic in the response that the lawyers were preparing for that. I stated to him that first – I did not request all the emails – just the list of emails from the INBOX since yesterday. BUT – even if I did request all the emails – this was a fairly routine request. Only if any of those emails, in the body, contained exempt information (which is rarely the case), would that justify anything other than simple production – the redaction of that particular information. BUT – as I was not requesting the emails – but the listing of emails – this was not a concern. All they have to do is sort the inbox by date – limit it to yesterday to today – and click PRINT (print to file) – and there is the record I am requesting. In the meantime – I had him tell me who he received emailed requests from since yesterday. He read out the names of SEVEN requestors. Most were from those who were sending in the request above. Two were from members of the media (I have contacted one). He then stated he would print out each of those and send me those as a partial response to my second request. I am still waiting for that.
So I await the production of the Incident Report (I have been in contact with the Missouri ACLU about this). We will see what happens.
Charlie Grapski, who is heading PINAC’s new Open Records Project, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.