A reporter sent me a local police department's Records Disclosure Request the other day. It dates back to 2005 and so there might be some argument that this city just needs to update its forms. Still, it serves as a perfect example of how law enforcement can pressure the public into doing something that is totally illegal just because of the position they hold in the community.
The reporter wants access to an incident report, so she requested it. Truthfully, an oral request citing the sunshine law is sufficient to meet the sunshine law's requirements. Asking someone to "fill out a form" to make the request "official" is NOT a provision of the sunshine law -- it's something the local law enforcement office is imposing illegally. (Frankly, I've heard folks with the Attorney General's office suggest that if the public body wants a paper form for its own purposes, it should just offer to fill out its form for the requester. Can you imagine saying to a police department official "just fill out that form yourself if you want it filled out?" I suspect the response would be pretty negative.)
Anyway, the request form asks these additional questions: 1) Name of person you are representing (if applicable) and In what capacity do you represent this person?; 2) Describe with as much detail as possible the reason you seek these records; and 3) Explain your connection to the records sought. It does at least note that the last request is optional. Darned right it is. Law enforcement has no business asking your connection to the records you seek. I've written some time ago about going into a police department to request a copy of an incident report when my son was the victim of an altercation and being asked what business i had requesting the report. I could have simply said "I'm his mom," but I was so incensed over law enforcement thinking it had that right that I refused to answer it, thinking someone needed to make a point to those folks. I had to "pull rank" to get someone in the department to authorize the release of the report to me.
Similarly, the name of the person the requester represents is not a legitimate question. If I'm an attorney (which, of course, I am), I may not want to reveal to law enforcement my client's name. I do suppose, in regard to this question, it might have some pertinence if the record I'm requesting is a closed record, because there are some provisions allowing certain parties and those representing them to have access to unredacted records in certain circumstances, but if that was the situation, then this part of the inquiry could wait until the response was made that the record was closed or when the redacted record was presented.
But what really amazes me is the second provision above -- the request that you describe "with as much detail as possible" the reason you seek these records. It doesn't matter if I'm going to wallpaper my house with them. They are public records and any citizen has a right to request them for any reason.
The sad part is that folks who come in to fill out this form expect law enforcement folks to know the law. They certainly expect citizens to know and obey the laws. If I am caught speeding, is it okay if I respond to the cop that I was just doing it because I wanted to? I doubt it.