In a part of Jack Cashill’s latest book, “If I Had A Son – Race, Guns, and The Railroading of George Zimmerman“, Jack outlined a brief snippet of my encounters with M-DSPD Law Enforcement while seeking to obtain public records. I can tell you from first-hand experience it is dangerous, literally physically dangerous, and nerve wracking.
Because few, if any, citizens attempt to keep public officials focused on the lawful execution of their role/job; and because few, if any, journalists actually do the boot work to gain first-hand information contained within those records, government officials feel little to no compulsion to comply with the law.
Most of the officials, clerks, administrators, and compliance persons, associated with facilitation of Public Records have no idea what the laws are which should guide their compliance with lawfully requested record fulfillment. Those that do have some understanding know how to pressure, leverage, manipulate and delay such requests.
It is the policy of this state [Florida] that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency. (Pam Bondi FL Statute 119.01 Public Records)
It is not a mission for the faint at heart.
Persistence is the key. But organization, preparation and training yourself to stay in control of your “fight or flight” emotion is an absolute necessity.
Here are some recent video-graphic examples of what can and will be encountered.
The first is from the lobby of the 4th District State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville Florida. This is the SAO run by Angela Corey. The request is for the visitors log – The request was made by Florida Open Gov WATCH:
(1) SAO policy requires citizens to present ID once you clear the checkpoint. This is a violation of public record law.
(2) Detective Earnest C Evans demanded an explanation as to why we needed to see the daily visitors log. This also is a violation of public records law.
(3) We were removed from the building under threat of arrest without our public records request being met.
(4) We were forced to turn off ( visible cameras ) preventing us from documenting the public records request and violating the 1st amendment.
This Second Example is from PhotographyIsNotACrime as they encounter Hialeah. A Miami-Dade municipality that has a long history of corruption, despite its “City of Progress” nickname:
It all started when we walked into city hall with Florida public records guru Joel Chandler, who has sued hundreds of government agencies for refusing to comply with the state public record law. Here are a couple of our previous adventures with other agencies in Miami-Dade County.
The Florida public records law is pretty basic. Any citizen can walk into any government agency and make a verbal request to inspect and photograph records.
But government officials tend to force citizens to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops to obtain the records, usually insisting the requests be made in writing, allowing them to throw the request on a back burner and go back to their usual business of whatever it is they don’t want us to see, which is why they go into a panic when they see us walk in with cameras.
Each of these examples represent the typical governmental response anyone should anticipate when trying to gain public records. Laws vary from state to state, so before you begin such an endeavor you should become intimately familiar with exactly what the laws are, and what rights you have.
These are trying times we live in. There are bigger discussion issues at stake, but one thing is certain, the larger the government becomes – the more emboldened they feel to keep you from knowing what they are doing.
For them, “Sunlight” is considered a RISK.