4.27.2009

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Well then.

I called my way up through the chain of command and just now talked to Michael Joyner, Public Information Officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department.

He told me that he wouldn't release any information on report #09F052601 because this is "just a web page" and I'm outside the "registered media."

Well, no, I'm not registered with the FWPD, but I was unaware that was necessary to be a press outlet or a member of the media. Without registering I still seem to have managed to write stories, post pictures and even broadcast video of events here and elsewhere that would qualify as news and commentary.

I can see limiting extended access to accredited organizations, but when I look up our own laws here:

IC 5-14-3-1
Public policy; construction; burden of proof for nondisclosure
Sec. 1. A fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government is that government is the servant of the people and not their master. Accordingly, it is the public policy of the state that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees. Providing persons with the information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty it is to provide the information. This chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy and place the burden of proof for the nondisclosure of a public record on the public agency that would deny access to the record and not on the person seeking to inspect and copy the record.
As added by P.L.19-1983, SEC.6. Amended by P.L.77-1995, SEC.1.

...

IC 5-14-3-5

Information relating to arrest or summons; jailed persons; agency records
Sec. 5. (a) If a person is arrested or summoned for an offense, the following information shall be made available for inspection and copying:
(1) Information that identifies the person including the person's name, age, and address.
(2) Information concerning any charges on which the arrest or summons is based.
(3) Information relating to the circumstances of the arrest or the issuance of the summons, such as the:
(A) time and location of the arrest or the issuance of the summons;
(B) investigating or arresting officer (other than an undercover officer or agent); and
(C) investigating or arresting law enforcement agency.
(b) If a person is received in a jail or lock-up, the following information shall be made available for inspection and copying:
(1) Information that identifies the person including the person's name, age, and address.

(2) Information concerning the reason for the person being placed in the jail or lock-up, including the name of the person on whose order the person is being held.
(3) The time and date that the person was received and the time and date of the person's discharge or transfer.
(4) The amount of the person's bail or bond, if it has been fixed.
(c) An agency shall maintain a daily log or record that lists suspected crimes, accidents, or complaints, and the following information shall be made available for inspection and copying:
(1) The time, substance, and location of all complaints or requests for assistance received by the agency.
(2) The time and nature of the agency's response to all complaints or requests for assistance.
(3) If the incident involves an alleged crime or infraction:
(A) the time, date, and location of occurrence;
(B) the name and age of any victim, unless the victim is a victim of a crime under IC 35-42-4;
(C) the factual circumstances surrounding the incident; and
(D) a general description of any injuries, property, or weapons involved.
The information required in this subsection shall be made available for inspection and copying in compliance with this chapter. The record containing the information must be created not later than twenty-four (24) hours after the suspected crime, accident, or complaint has been reported to the agency.
(d) This chapter does not affect IC 5-2-4, IC 10-13-3, or IC 5-11-1-9.
As added by P.L.19-1983, SEC.6. Amended by P.L.39-1992, SEC.1; P.L.2-2003, SEC.24.
It doesn't look like I should have to file a FOIA request with the city attorney just to get a police report, as officer Joyner suggested. If you read all of that page of the Indiana Code I linked to, you'll see there isn't a journalism degree requirement, either.

I've worked for newspapers before, most of my life in fact. But even that shouldn't matter. If the government, through a police agency, gets to say who the press is, we don't have a free press. We have a state-approved press that only operates fully at the government's whim.

So, in the city of Fort Wayne, are we bloggers second-class media, undeserving of the full rights and responsibilities of the 1st Amendment? With newspapers in a tailspin (and who knows what will happen with local television media) who is officer Joyner going to end up talking to in the near future, if not the online media?

10 comments:

slp said...

Hi Michael,

I share your frustration, however, if he insists on a FOIA, do it and go from there. Whatever we think of ourselves, many organizations and government agencies do not share those thoughts.

We aren't going to gain points or acceptance by not jumping through the hoops, whether we think they're justified or not.

If you do this right, the next time should be easier, or at least you'll know what form to fill out and which hoop to jump through.

Sometimes you just have to play the game!

Just my two cents worth.

Anonymous said...

Joyner is using whatever leverage he can to deny you. Take your story/request to the newspaper or TV station(s) and have them run with it.

MichaelK said...

@slp

Sure, I'm going through the FOIA thing, but that's not really the point.

It shouldn't matter if we're media or not. There's no distinction in the law, and what FWPD runs counter to the letter and the spirit.

Besides, doesn't it kind of weaken the argument for strict adherence to the law on the part of CMers when the police themselves seem to be picking and choosing what laws they'll obey?

slp said...

But it is the point. You stated you represented yourself as media and were denied on that basis.

Of the IC you quote, 5-14-3-3, Section 3, (2) states such requests are to be made in writing, or in a form provided by the agency at the discretion of the agency. I'm sure the media doesn't submit every request in writing when dealing with the Police. Perhaps that is the distinction Joyner was making and the reason for his denial? They accept verbal requests from the media, but everyone else puts it in writing.

Every agency and government entity is different in how they handle requests. That's certainly frustrating. Submit whatever they require, get a denial in writing and take it to IPAC.

What's a "CMer"? I do agree that it weakens an argument for adherence when the entity itself doesn't follow the law. Look at the entire debate over seized guns and weapons...

MichaelK said...

Still not the point. There's no requirement for identification or differentiation between "public" and "media."

I also showed up in person in the first place, and filled out the form provided, as requested. So no, Joyner wanted to know why I wanted the information, and that's the only reason it came up at all.

IC 5-14-3-3
Right to inspect and copy public agency records; electronic data storage; use of information for commercial purposes; contracts
Sec. 3. (a) Any person may inspect and copy the public records of any public agency during the regular business hours of the agency, except as provided in section 4 of this chapter. A request for inspection or copying must:
(1) identify with reasonable particularity the record being requested; and
(2) be, at the discretion of the agency, in writing on or in a form provided by the agency.
No request may be denied because the person making the request refuses to state the purpose of the request, unless such condition is required by other applicable statute.CMer = Critical Mass-er.

slp said...

You didn't say anything that you showed up in person or filled out a form. You also didn't mention you refused to explain the reason for your request. Kind of pertinent, don't you think?

Stephen Parker said...

You didn't say anything that you showed up in person or filled out a form. You also didn't mention you refused to explain the reason for your request. Kind of pertinent, don't you think?

MichaelK said...

Sorry, that was in the updates of the earlier post back here.

I did say why when asked, my point is you don't even have to do that. So really I've been more cooperative than is actually required. I really have tried to be nice about it.

S L Parker said...

You're right, you did write it there, however, I usually follow google reader which doesn't reprint a post, even if you add something later. That's why I missed it.

Stick to your guns, Michael. Know that stuff now, you're doing it the right way. If you need help with IPAC or getting the form for that, let me know.

MichaelK said...

Ah, that's valuable information, Reader not updating. I'm going to have to do something about that.

I am getting ready to send the FOIA letter, I'll let you know about IPAC, thanks!