Earlier this month, PINAC correspondent Raymond Rodden submitted a public records request to the Tucson Police Department. He then received a voicemail from the public records department stating he could inspect the records he requested as they were now available, so Rodden went down to the police station.
But as soon as he entered, he was informed he was banned from the building.
“You know you’re not allowed in the building, right?” Tucson police officer R. Parrish said.
The cops apparently had an issue with him filing an internal affairs complaint against one of their officers who assaulted Rodden last month for recording a DUI traffic stop, not that they ever admitted it.
When Rodden replied that he was certainly allowed in the public building, the officer continued, stating, “You’ve been told, right? You were told that Monday and you’ve been told that before.”
In fact, Rodden had never been told anything of the sort and demanded the officer’s ID and badge number. Officer Parrish refused to show his ID in violation of a Tucson police order, and then told Rodden he was free to fill out a request form, which Rodden had already filled out.
“Shall I wave to your camera?” Parrish asked as Rodden waited outside after another officer tried to explain why Rodden was banned from the building.
When two more police officers arrived, this time from Internal Affairs, Rodden was eventually let into the building. Inside the building, Rodden was told he couldn’t scan the records he had requested, claiming he was trying to “cheat the system.” He was also warned against excessive “hanging out” in the building,” which is one he needed to do to inspect the 1,000 documents he requested.
He also asked for the memo stating that he was banned from the building, but as you can imagine, it didn’t exist, which is why they eventually allowed him to inspect the records.
And he also asked to inspect the daily log, which is something all police departments should have, but was first told that it did not exist, then told he would have to make the request in writing, which contradicts Arizona’s public records law.
But they eventually gave up that battle as well.
According to the state-funded Arizona’s Ombudsman site:
Arizona law requires all officers and public bodies to maintain records reasonably necessary to provide an accurate accounting of their official activities and of any government funded activities.
An officer is any person elected or appointed to hold office of a public body or any chief, administrative officer, head, director, superintendent or chairman of any public body. Public bodies include the state, counties, cities, towns, school districts, political subdivisions, or special taxing districts and any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, or committee thereof.
Records are defined as books, papers, maps, photographs, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved by the agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of government. Examples of public records and other matters include calendars, reports, legal memoranda, policies and procedures, accident reports, training videos and materials, tape recordings of meetings where there are no written minutes, personnel records, case files, and data bases.
Every citizen in Arizona has the right to access public records upon request. Arizona Public Records Law specifically requires that public records and other matters in the custody of any officer shall be open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours. Public agencies are required to promptly furnish the requested information. Access to a public record is deemed denied if a custodian fails to promptly respond.
It is best to request public records from the agency that owns or created the record. It is also advised to keep the scope of your request as narrow and specific as possible. Doing so will save time and expense for all parties.
Here is the actual state statute regarding public records.
Tuscon PD, get it together. There might not be an easier job on the planet than giving members of the public documents to inspect.
Rodden, who has not let the Tucson Police Department deter him from trying to keep them transparent and hold them accountable, is seeking donations for new camera gear.