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

asweetnessabove

They are not being denied. They simply said, circle anything that looks "interesting" to you, then request it and you will get it. Like your job as a newspaper is so hard. In my opinion, police officers have much more important things to do than worrying about what is and what isn't interesting to you. You determine that, and then ask for it. Jeeze

Matt Westerhold's picture
Matt Westerhold

Thanks for sharing your opinion sweetness, but complying with state law should be a priority for the Port Clinton police department despite your personal feeling or animosity toward the Register. You'd have to be some sort of savant to know what's interesting before anything is disclosed. 

Baba Booey

Burrnnnnnn....

Edwin Ison

If the law is clear, pursue legal action.
I'll bet there are plenty of previous decisions to reference.

asweetnessabove

Stop whining.

No, definitely not a savant. But honestly... The blotter is probably the dumbest thing. It does nothing but prove how stupid some people are, and how our "well spent" tax dollars are being dished out.

Way to be condescending, you must have a guilty conscience to jump right on the defensive line. Congratulations

zachfromsandusky2

Maybe the register should actually write a productive story once in a while and quit riding the backs of every law enforcement agency every day and they may be a bit more reasonable and willing to five the register the requested information in a timely manner. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar Westerhold!

ladydye_5

Assweet I agree....they told them they could have a report if requested. Not sure what the big deal is. I understand the LAW and public records, BUT many of the "reports" in the police blotter are just plain ridiculous. Not interesting, not informative, not important. Let the police do their job, they are not secretaries.

Señor Clown

"Let the police do their job, they are not secretaries."

You do understand that the primary role of a law enforcement agency is to investigate and document incidents as a service to the prosecutor's office and courts?

Alissa Widman's picture
Alissa Widman

It sounds simple, doesn't it asweetnessabove? However, when I circled the reports I wanted a couple weeks ago (about 150, about half of the total number of reports dispatched in a week), I received and was told I only "really needed" about 30-50 of them. That was an entire week's worth of reports. So just because you ask doesn't mean you necessarily receive.

KnuckleDragger

My question is, are you paying for these reports? If not, you should be. I personally don't want my tax dollars paying for the man hours and supplies used to print these reports so that a for profit newspaper can make money off of it.

herbie_hancock

I would really like to know the answer to that myself. Does the register pay for the "150 copies" of reports every week from all the local departments, or are "we", the public paying for the supplies and man hours to provide the register with its news? I talked to a local township employee awhile ago that said a SR reporter wanted 5 years of records from them (over six binders worth of copies) it took them the better part of a week to compile it (all the while still being required to do their job) and the reporter threatened them with the "sunshine" law if they didn't complete it fast enough. Again Matt and his cronies are using the SR to try and bash folks that won't let him get his way RIGHT, THIS, SECOND. Instead of publicly pouting everytime you don't get your way, just file a lawsuit. But since we never hear about these lawsuits being filed and won, I'm guessing all your going to do is complain in your paper. It only seems like its the SR, and a couple others in this forum that care whether we get to read the reports about who got a speeding ticket over the weekend anyways. The rest of us could really care less, which leaves you complaining all by your lonesome, and the rest of us pointing it out. I would of hated to be one of your siblings/friends growing up, probably would of got tattled on everytime I passed gas, burped, picked my nose or pointed. I think the SR is just mad that these police departments started publishing blotters with pictures and stories of their own on facebook, making your paper obsolete, well unless you all like reading what happened in Sandusky 60 years ago today in the NEWs.

herbie_hancock

does the SR pay for the materials and man hours for public information requests?

herbie_hancock

Its ok we didn't really expect an answer on this question, we already know what the answer is. We, the tax payers are the ones that pay for the materials and time for you to be able to obtain your "150 police reports" per week per department, which in turn you charge us to read...well the few that pay for your paper anyways, and then claim its journalism. And that doesn't even include all the other local offices that you request information from. Then you guys print stories about how our local government is wasting X amount of our tax dollars...

zachfromsandusky2

Well when your employer has a reputation for being a**es to the police and writing negative stories about them constantly they tend to not want to be very cooperative!

jimmydecant

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.

Capt. Ford

I find it interesting that the Register doesn't go after the Cedar Point PD records, oh, that would be biting the hand that feeds.

Edwin Ison

Good point, how about it Matt? Is CP police also bound by the same laws as PC police?

Matt Westerhold's picture
Matt Westerhold

Thanks Captain and Edwin. It's a good point. The Cedar Point police department is not exactly governed by the same rules for a variety of reasons. It's a quasi-public agency. It is a division of the Sandusky Police Department, but is fully funded by Cedar Point and operates on private property. I believe there was some specific legislation created years ago to create the CPPD agency.  

chongo

And Matt successfully dodges the actual question on why they do not go get the logs from CP.. You're paper seems to be more of a tabloid anymore then a new/fact finding paper, much as the case of most of your dying industry. Such records/logs would be right up your alley for sure with the current state of the ragister.

vicariouslyAlive

CP police being partially privatized and only operating on private property might be bound by the same privacy laws as armed officers operating in hospitals. Just a thought.

TboneWalkerJr

Just because you didn't understand the simple answer doesn't mean the question was dodged. Assumedly the answer was targeted to be understandable by someone of average intelligence. Perhaps you could submit a request to the Register for an answer translated down to a lower level target audience?

herbie_hancock

"Assumedly the answer was targeted to be understandable by someone of average intelligence." ----- Assumedly the answer was meant to be UNDERSTOOD by someone WITH average intelligence. Don't worry, we "lower level audience", will correct your grammer.

MrSandusky

I used to work for Cedar Point Police, it is a police department just like any other. I can assure you that if half of what happens over there was put in print in the Register attendance would drop significantly. However, so would the advertising dollars to the register. What happens cover there beats anything that is going on in Port Clinton. The public records fight is only worth fighting as long as advertising dollars are not in play.

Unassumer

For years PC has not been disclosing names of those interested, even in their newspaper. I think the Register and the public have a right to that information. I don't care if someone gets a ticket, but I do want to know if there's a felon living next door or who is trafficking drugs. Fortunately, if you have a police scanner, you can get some info from that but there is no listing of arrests anywhere. The News Herald has chosen to report a story without using a name, ie, they say a man was arrested for such and such but don't disclose his identity. I think often it's to protect the privacy of long time or important residents but that's just my opinion. Still, I think we're entitled to know.

huronguy

They need to obey the law regardless! The police shouldn't just pick and choose what laws they feel are necessary. I'm willing to bet that office does has the time but a lot of time is wasted due to unnecessary chit chat among coworkers and folks using there cell phones inappropriately regardless law is law

THED0N

We all have the right to know what happens in any town. With out transparence we live in China!!!
Matt I have never met you however you have a very tough job. I thank you and employees at Sandusky Register for digging in the trenches for our "the public's" best welfare.

Julie R.

Like.

J Cooper

Different day, different law enforcement on the Register lets make them look bad list. This is what happens in a very small single printed media market.

nonconformist

Law enforcement seems to do a bang up job all by themselves.

Darkhorse

The law is the law and entities like to play games with public reocrds. Some entities think they can make up their own rules. Sometimes it is a lack of training and the entity thinks it is none of your business. On the other hand, entities like to see how far they can take it by denying public documents they don't want out. No one should have to get to the point of having to sue the entitiy for records that belong to the public. What happens is that in the long run, if the public record is not given up in a timely matter, it is obvious the entity doesn't want you to have it. It will cost the entity more money in a lawsuit if someone should take them up on a lawsuit. It is irresponsbile for an entity to provoke a lawsuit that will cost the taxpayers more money in the long run then if you just handed over the public record.

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