City wants Point police reports public

SANDUSKY When it comes to crime that occurs on Cedar Point property, what happens at Cedar Point tra
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

When it comes to crime that occurs on Cedar Point property, what happens at Cedar Point traditionally stays at Cedar Point.

But the city's law director said that shouldn't be the case. Crime reports are public information, he said, and Cedar Point's private police force is required to make reports available to the public because it is an extension of the Sandusky Police Department.

"They need to comply with all the laws that any other police force does," said Sandusky Law Director Don Icsman.

Icsman intends to meet with Sandusky Police Chief Kim Nuesse today to discuss possible changes in how crime reports from the Cedar Point police are handled and whether long-standing practices need to be changed.

"It's a relationship that's been around for 40 or 50 years and needs to be brought into the 21st century," Icsman said. "How does the Cedar Point police chief answer to the Sandusky police chief and those kinds of things? I just think it needs to be talked about. It probably hasn't been talked about in years."

The issue surfaced after the Register asked Cedar Point police for reports related to the arrests of four park employees earlier this summer. Three of those employees were charged with committing felony sex crimes against other park employees, including one victim who was a 17-year-old girl.

The Cedar Point police referred inquiries to the park's marketing department, which initially refused to release certain specific information on the arrests, saying they occurred on private property.

"We don't believe we have to provide access to internal documents," Cedar Point spokesman Robin Innes said.

Innes later acknowledged that arrest reports were public record in a written response to an inquiry from the Register.

"Cedar Point Police Department currently submits all arrest reports to the appropriate court on a timely basis," Innes said. "These reports are public record and are available for public scrutiny and dissemination."

But Innes reiterated the park's position that incident reports where no arrests are made were not a matter of public record.

The Cedar Point police force is made up of state-sanctioned officers sworn in through the Sandusky Police Department. The force was established in 1967 and consists of a mix of full-time and part-time seasonal officers, according to park officials.

A city ordinance that complies with a state law governing private police forces gives the Cedar Point Police Department authority to enforce laws on Cedar Point property.

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's office said a private police force is required to make all crime and incident reports available.

"If (Cedar Point Police) are working through Sandusky police and they are given that ability, then they should be offering public reports," said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for Dann's office.

The arrangement between the Sandusky Police Department and Cedar Point is extremely problematic, according to David Marburger, a public records expert and an attorney who represents the Ohio Newspaper Association.

"It sounds like an enormous conflict of interest if they would try to deny public information about employees accused of serious crimes that might cause members of the public to balk at going to Cedar Point," Marburger said. "I don't know if this would cause that or not, but to the extent the park's own public relations sources would counsel them not to discuss that, I think is a conflict of interest."

Innes disagrees, saying Cedar Point sees no conflict at all.

"We've got an excellent partnership between the two," he said.

Kent State University journalism professor and attorney Tim Smith is also skeptical about the arrangement, saying Cedar Point has a motivation to keep information secret.

"I think there's a possibility people might cover up stuff as opposed to having bad publicity," Smith said.