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.:
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.