Update: Port Clinton police go social

Chief Rob Hickman uses Facebook page to bash Register's request for public records.
Shawn Foucher
Jun 15, 2013

June 15, 2013, 6 p.m.

Port Clinton police chief Robert Hickman responded to an article in Saturday's Register by posting at the police department's Facebook page, declaring he would determine what information would be released for a police blotter and he would continue posting that information at the Facebook page.

"I will NOT debate this issue with (the Register) as we’ve spoken to them a couple times this past week regarding the release of our/your records," Hickman wrote. "They along with other media outlets will be provided a copy of the 'blotter' as I print here on Facebook and if the Sandusky Register or others want further specific information; all they have to do is request it (plain and simple)." 

The police department has denied several public records requests already, however, the latest on Friday when police department records clerk Mark Anderson said the newspaper's request to review specific incident reports was "overly broad or burdensome." The request was not broad and would have required Anderson to simply press the "print" button on a computer keyboard to print the documents.

Other police departments across the region comply with the very same request every day.

State law specifically details how public records are to be released and does not allow for police departments to withhold records arbitrarily or use social media as a substitute for complying with public records requests. The Register renewed its requests for documents on Saturday. 

Despite the seemingly apparent noncompliance with state law, some fans of the police department's Facebook page supported Hickman's decision to pick and choose which documents the public can see. 

"We, the public, are informed and you inform us how you see fit," Courtney Dorreman posted in a statement directed to Hickman. "Keep doing what you think is best and forget their drama."

Another poster at the city's social media page expressed similar animosity toward the Register for requesting the documents.

"The Register is TRASH! And they hate Police! Anyone can see that!" Mary Tuttamore Meade posted. "Chief Hickman, you keep doing the awesome job you have been doing for your community!"

Another poster suggested documents and information should be withheld from the public despite state law requiring disclosure. 

"The register/community does not need to know every detail in every call," Nicole Goldstein wrote. "I believe the list of calls dispatched is enough for the public. If they want more then they can get off their butts and do the hard work of getting the info."

*

Original post, June 15, 2013, 5 a.m.:

Port Clinton police don't disclose
 
Officers are so overworked, they can’t print reports. 

That’s more or less the word from police Chief Rob Hickman and records clerk Mark Anderson, who said their records software makes it much too difficult to print crime reports on a weekly basis.

The Register routinely requests incident reports from area police departments and sheriff’s offices, using information from the reports to write stories and police blotter. Almost without fail, area law enforcement departments provide — either daily or weekly — a stack of incident reports typed up by officers and deputies. 

Sandusky police, for example, employ one records clerk who on a daily basis prints dozens upon dozens of incident reports that are made available that same day. 

Port Clinton, however, has resorted to providing the public with a list of calls dispatched, but no reports associated with those calls. Many of the items say, “Breaking and entering,” or “citation issued,” but it provides no further information, such as who was arrested or any other particulars. 

In short, the list of calls of dispatched is useless in providing any information of value to the public.    

Port Clinton police said the Register can circle any items that look interesting, then request reports for those. With vague information on the call log — in some cases, zero information — it is near impossible to determine what merits an “interesting” report. 

Hickman, Anderson and Port Clinton police Detective Corbin Carpenter said the Register is making Port Clinton police do the newspaper’s work by requesting all incident reports, rather than, as the police department suggests, choosing items that look interesting.    

The Register has asked the department to provide full reports for anything listed on the call log. Anderson, the records clerk, said Friday this request is “overly broad or ambiguous.” 

This is the first time a local police department has ever used this reasoning to deny a weekly batch of incident reports based on this exemption. The Register’s request is not overly broad or ambiguous. 

Sometimes, Port Clinton police would be forced to print anywhere from six reports to 20 reports a day. Anderson said he’s much too busy to print so many reports. 

State law is clear about police incident reports. A police department’s defunct software system — incapable of easily printing reports — is not one of the listed exemptions. 

As a result of Port Clinton’s stance, the Register cannot run Port Clinton police blotter in today’s paper. Other blotters from area police agencies will appear in the newspaper today and throughout the weekend as usual.  

Comments

Centauri

The cost of man hours is not included since providing public records is part of the public official's duties. To pay for man hours would be double pay for the public official.

Centauri

http://www.auditor.state.oh.us/s...

4. Inspection at No Cost During Regular Business Hours see page 14
5. Copies and Delivery or Transmission, “At Cost” see page 15

5. Copies and Delivery or Transmission, “At Cost”
A public office may charge costs for copies and for delivery or transmission, and may require payment of both costs in advance. “At cost” includes the actual cost of making copies, packaging,
postage, and any other costs of the method of delivery or transmission chosen by the requester. The cost of employee time cannot be included in the cost of copies or delivery.

Darkhorse

The Chief is arrogant. You can't use the excuse anymore state that you don't have the time to present documents that are requested. The paper is trying to set an example of what the Chief needs to be doing with public records. What is the Chief hiding? The Register should keep asking for every report until the Chief gets the message.

Centauri

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43
B)

(1) Upon request and subject to division (B)(8) of this section, all public records responsive to the request shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Subject to division (B)(8) of this section, upon request, a public office or person responsible for public records shall make copies of the requested public record available at cost and within a reasonable period of time....

(3) If a request is ultimately denied, in part or in whole, the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record shall provide the requester with an explanation, including legal authority, setting forth why the request was denied...

(4) Unless specifically required or authorized by state or federal law or in accordance with division (B) of this section, no public office or person responsible for public records may limit or condition the availability of public records by requiring disclosure of the requester's identity or the intended use of the requested public record. Any requirement that the requester disclose the requestor's identity or the intended use of the requested public record constitutes a denial of the request.

guano

If memory serves, this fine fellow was nothing more than the pcpd dog boy. Having a k-9 partner for years may have damaged his human communication skills. Someone should investigate all the money homeland security has provided to Pcpd. And wasn't there something about some dude from homeland security padding his resume to be hired as ottawa county sheriff's captain? Oh where is Eerie Voices when you need them?

Cobbwebb12345

TO THE REGISTER: THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME TO HAVE YOUR ATTORNEY FILE CHARGES AGAINST THE POLICE, INCLUDING THE CHIEF AND ALL OTHERS, INDIVIDUALLY, WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO NOT OBEY THE LAW. THE SUNSHINE LAW IS --- YES, THE LAW.

LAW ENFORCEMENT IN EVERY SMALL TOWN REALLY DISLIKE THE LOCAL MEDIA, ESPECIALLY NEWAPAPERS. EVEN GET THE JOURNAL TO SHARE IN THS
OVERDUE PROCEDURE. BELIEVE ME, I KNOW PERSONALLY. THE JUDGE (WHICH MIGHT HAVE TO BE FROM ANOTHER COUNTY) MUST FOLLOW THE LAW AND RULE IN FAVOR OF THE MEDIA.

THE JUDGE MUST INFORM THE DEFENDANTS TO KNOW THE LAW, AND TO FOLLOW THE LAW. UNFORTUNATELY, THERE IS NOT EVEN A "SLAP ON THE HANDS AT THIS STAGE." THIS ALSO IS A WONDERFUL WAY TO BE FORCED INTO AN APPEAL IF ....., WELL YOU KNOW WHO I'M TALKING ABOUT.

IF THE POLICE CHIEFS WOULD CONTINUE THIS ARROGANCE AND IGNORE THE ORDERS OF THE COURT, THEY WILL BE FACING THE JUDGE AGAIN AND THIS TIME CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT OF COURT. THIS IS WHERE YOUR ATTORNEY ASKS THE JUDGE TO ORDER ALL COURT EXPENSES AND ALL ATTORNEY FEES BE PAID BY THE DEFENDANT.

YES, THERE GOES OUR TAX DOLLARS AGAIN.

ONCE THIS FIASCO IS OVER, THE REGISTER WOULD HAVE A GOOD STORY FOR AP, AND PERHAPS ELSEWHERE.

YOU SEE, THE FIRST STAGE OF THIS COMPLAINT DOES NOT HAVE A PENALTY OF ANY KIND, AND TO -- SOME DEGREE -- THEY
ARE IMMUNE. EXCEPT WHEN THEY CROSS THE COURT JUDGE.

HEY, I AM SORRY FOR THE ALL CAPS PRESENTATION. I JUST SAW IT.

COBBWEBB.

Centauri

"Anderson, the records clerk, said Friday this request is “overly broad or ambiguous.”

Ohio law explains the meaning of "overly broad or ambiguous." Police are supposed to enforce the Ohio laws, not break them or change them.

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43

(B)
2) To facilitate broader access to public records, a public office or the person responsible for public records shall organize and maintain public records in a manner that they can be made available for inspection or copying in accordance with division (B) of this section. A public office also shall have available a copy of its CURRENT records retention schedule at a location READILY AVAILABLE to the public. If a requester makes an "ambiguous or overly broad" request or has difficulty in making a request for copies or inspection of public records under this section SUCH that the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record CANNOT reasonably IDENTIFY WHAT public records are being requested, the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record may deny the request but shall provide the requester with an opportunity to revise the request by informing the requester of the manner in which records are maintained by the public office and accessed in the ordinary course of the public office's or person's duties.

What is so hard about asking for one day's worth of police reports? That would only be a few pages and not boxes and boxes of public records.

Gardenman

My father taught me a long time ago this saying "Don't fight with the guy who buys ink by the barrel...YOU will never win." That statement was one I keep in mind whenever dealing with the media as I worked in public service sector.

Centauri

http://www.dispatch.com/content/...
"The stealth exemption is a nickname for a series of misguided rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court in interpreting Ohio’s open-records law, our most potent catalyst for accountable government.

The court’s rulings have made Ohio the ONLY STATE where citizens must prove that information kept by public agencies is supposed to be open."

"Ohio’s top court has moved that key component of open government back to the 17th century, when England ruled America."

David Marburger, a partner at Baker Hostetler’s principal office in Cleveland, is co-author of Access with Attitude, a book about Ohio’s sunshine laws.

Ohio sends innocent political activists and whistle blowers to prison for trying to expose the truth and also to uncover the corruption in the entire state.

Just Sayin IMHO

The SR asks for records to see what they can put their spin on, I think. I have been reading the paper for over 30 years. It is not the same paper it once was. It is now a few pages of what appears to be more like the National Enquirer. I think the SR is mad that they are not getting their needs met as swiftly as the other police departments do. Now they want to put a spin on it suggesting that we - the people - are not being disclosed about all things. I have police in my neighborhood several times a WEEK! But that is not a good story for the SR. No, they want to post about things that have mud involved. It's sad. And they are in desperate need of a proofreader. Their editor of content is not doing a good job.

dorothy gale

Like

lifetimeresident

Is it true they are getting a new Walleye for the Walleye drop.

The Rudy

It is abundantly clear that the Register has an anti LE and gov't slant. To deny it is to fool only yourself. I too don't have a lot of faith or trust in the same entities but I don't blame them for blowing you off Matt even though it's illegal. In case you've not noticed the Register takes great pains to paint unfavorably LE and other things it seems to find as part of its apparent agenda. I say apparent because so many people in your circulation area feel that way. Denying it won't change that. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Señor Clown

It's abundantly clear that there are a lot of people who misconstrue the role of the free press as it pertains to the government. A free and independent press, by virtue of it's existence, needs to be vigilant in reporting the abuse or overreach of power by a government entity. Being critical of a government's actions in instances when it need be held accountable is not an anti-government or anti-law enforcement slant.

sandtown born a...

Exactly

J Cooper

The local press also should be non bias, not always bashing law enforcement.

four

HEADLINE::::::: THE REGISTER USES THE REGISTER TO BASH THE PORT CLINTON POLICE DEPT.....

sandtown born a...

Reading this all I can think is wow how self serving, WAKE UP PEOPLE laws and rules are here for a reason. Agree or disagree with the law or rule is just your opinion. Law enforcement and our public officials are required to follow the laws/rules just as everybody else. The Chief deciding what the public needs to know is so one sided any being truthful can see that. Sounds like the start to a investigation into who he's protecting or what's he hiding??? I personally know nothing of the Chief he might do a great job and take care of his city very well and with crime on a rise the way it is I hope this is the case. Lack of cooperation in this matter just makes him look either LAZY, HAS A HUGE EGO(do what I want} or hes HIDING SOMETHING. The fact that a lot of people think the register is out to bash law enforcement or is a rag of a paper really doesn't matter at all. REMEMBER HE'S REQUIRED TO FOLLOW THE LAWS AND RULES Even if he lives in(the so called/viewed ) upscale Port Clinton

Mikola15

Are some of these reports in the process of being investigated and CAN'T be released? Are they still in the court system? I know this might sound crazy but I’m sure records clerks are busy people, especially bigger departments who get busy this time of year because of tourists. I’m assuming they have to get new reports done and in the system by a certain time for the courts. You expect them to be negligent in the important areas of their job so they can make copies right away for a newspaper that will bash them no matter what they do? Get real. I don’t agree with everything the local police do and how they handle some calls, but cut them some slack. They have a hard enough job to do without you bashing them every chance you get. How about some respect for the people that put their lives on the line to keep the community safe.

sandtown born a...

So basically if I get extremely busy with my job that means I don't have to follow all the rules I am required to follow? We are all spread thin these days but to excuse a neglect of some of your requirements because your busy or because you choose to is a SERIOUS problem. Sounds to most like he wants to censor what the public is told. Good bad or ugly it's all public record unless it's censored by someone who thinks they can. What would be cheaper for the budget spending 5 minutes a day printing these reports or hours/days explaining in a court why you feel its necessary pick and choose what you feel the public should know? Port Clinton remember the very expensive ticket????

Julie R.

Bashing a newspaper for requesting public records? Maybe Hickman should go back to school and learn how to act like a professional. As for some of you commenters that are also bashing the SR, why not stick with a once-a-week newspaper, like maybe the Huron Hometown News or something. Makes everything look like all is fine & dandy in never-never land, which is exactly what law enforcement and public officials want the sheep to believe.

Kimo

The SR seems to be run by "Mole Hill People".

Mole Hill Person: Show up in the morning and find a mole hill, by the end of the day they turn in into a mountain.

In the news business there is profit in making yourself look good by making someone else look bad.

Kimo

So does the SR pay "at cost"?

Edwin Ison

Not sure what the big deal is here.... why do the PC police, who are charged with enforcing the law, feel they themselves don't have to follow the laws that govern them in their job duties?
If the Chief has time to FB, he himself could supply the lawfully requested documents.
Why the Register requests PR's is a moot point....follow the law!

dorothy gale

It is my firm belief that law enforcement everywhere is, always has been and always will be, corrupt. It is also apparent to me that the Sandusky Register is a poor example of a NEWSpaper and is on the fast track to becoming a tabloid rag. However, that is irrelevant with regard to law enforcement not abiding by the LAW. As others have asked, what is the PC Chief hiding?

Julie R.

Take it from one in the know ---- when any entity around tries to withhold and/or conceal what should be a matter public record, there's a 99% chance they are covering up something.

nobodyfromnowhere

Lets do the math. The Register in their article claims that their request would require the PCPD to print off "anywhere from six reports to 20 reports a day".

The Register then states in their article that it "has asked the department to provide full reports for anything listed in the call log."

Reporter Alissa Widman states in her comment that she refined her request to "about 150, about half the total number dispatched in a week"

Remember all of the base numbers are provided by THE SANDUSKY REGISTER OR IT'S EMPLOYEES.

Register's printed claim 6-20 reports a day.

Approx. Number of reports generated in a week at PCPD 300 (150x2=300)

Registers initial request 300 reports a week. This works out to 60 reports a day (300/5=60). This is 300% to 1000% more than the claimed 6-20 reports. Suddenly a BIG difference between what was reported and the actual number!

The Register's revised request: 150 reports for a week. This works out to 30 reports a day 50% to 500% more than the Register claimed in their article.

While you may claim that you and the Sandusky Register do not have an anti-law enforcement bias your actions again and again show otherwise.

The Register stated their request would be for 6-20 reports a day. Their actual requests were for 30-60 reports a day. This is a huge difference that was known or should have been know to the paper, editor, and reporter yet they went ahead and choose to print numbers that are obviously false most likely to mislead their readers fit their anti-law enforcement agenda. Unfortunately this is a pattern with the Register and Mr. Westerhold and when challenged they simply refuse to respond or respond in a condnesending manner and insult the people challenging, and continue their deception. Prior false statements include but are not limited to claiming records as public when they clearly do not meet state law definition and claiming there is a state law that the REQUIRES police to take an incident report before starting an investigation.

While you and the Register say one thing your action show some thing completely different. If you feel so strongly I suggest, as I have before, you put your papers money where your mouth is and file suit for the release of the records. I think, and I bet you a judge would think too, that a record request of every report generated every day every week would be considered over broad and ambiguous. Hence why you will throw your tantrum then slink away and hide from the debate.

Oh I know it's been asked before but you never answered: does the Register pay for the records it requests, or do you expect to get them for free? I await your reply.

Matt Westerhold's picture
Matt Westerhold

Thanks nobody, but you went to a lot of work here to say very little. The information you have provided is inaccurate and it's apparent you don't have an understanding of the code or experience with its enforcement. The Register pays for documents as required and the time it takes for officials to procure them is minimal — whether it's 10 a week or 150 — this is also addressed in the code. It's probably much less than the time it takes to put jokes on the official police department Facebook page. Public agencies are required by law to keep records, have them accessible and provide them upon request. It's pretty straightforward.  And, obviously, the Register isn't slinking away in this instance and nor has it done that previously. 

nobodyfromnowhere

Matt the base numbers I used were provided either in the Register article or in Ms. Widman's comment. Are you admitting that the Register published inaccurate information? How are they inaccurate? I understand the Code quite well. Your paper will have requested between 7800 (150X52= 7800 Ms. Widman's request) and 15,600 (300X52= 15600 The number requested according to the article) reports from the PCPD this year. That seems overly broad, and I bet a judge will agree if you ever actually file a lawsuit.

I made no mention about the time it takes to process your request each day buy since you brought it up 60 reports (again your requested number) X 3 minutes per report (a conservative estimate) equals 180 minutes or over 1/3 of the records clerks work day, each and every day to satisfy just the Registers daily request. As for the Register not slinking away did you ever file suit, as I suggested, for the letter that was sent to the council members?

Last, and this was the primary point of my comment which you did not even address. Why did you as editor and the Register publish numbers which you knew or had reason to know were false? Your numbers of 6-20 reports per day were very false. Using Ms. Widman's admitted number of 150 being half the reports per week and your papers request of all reports thus a request of 300 reports per week (150X2= 300) your paper was requesting 60 reports per day. 3 to 10 times the number you claimed in this article. Why did the Sandusky Register ignore the true numbers in your request, and publish the false numbers of 6-20 when you knew the true numbers were so much more? I await your reply.

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