This is not a typical story for my readers, but unfortunately, it is "typical" for those who are reporters and who deal with police records on a regular basis.
There's a newspaper in the state that is engaged in an ongoing struggle with its local police department over access to basic incident reports. The police department wanted to issue "press releases" instead of incident reports. They were told that wasn't proper under the sunshine law. The department then claimed it had no incident reports -- that every report it generated involved investigative information and therefore they were all investigative reports and closed. Wrong again.
The police department wanted to put everything online and not make paper copies available, and also not make its log available. Nope, try again.
Then, last weekend a local cop was in an accident which may have involved driving while intoxicated. It comes as no surprise that the incident report for that event seemed to not make it into the weekend incident reports.
This part of the sunshine law seems, in many ways, to be even more clearly written than the parts that apply to meetings of public bodies. Section 610.100 says law enforcement agencies shall maintain records of all incidents reported to them. Those incident reports shall be open records. It doesn't seem all that complicated.
When law enforcement hides records of crimes, citizens are fooled as to the situation in the cities in which they live. When the crime information they withhold involves law enforcement officers, it makes it clear to the citizens that there is a double standard for law enforcement in that city.
This particular paper is on a nearly weekly-reporting schedule to the state Attorney General's office, filing complaints repeatedly about the behavior of their local law enforcement officers. Considering the background of our present Attorney General, one would expect that office to take a strong stand about enforcement of the law. I'm hoping as this continues, that eventually that office will step in and ensure that law enforcement officers are enforcing the law for all citizens, not just the ones they want to prosecute.
It's about time.