Our view: Public records are just that
December 7, 2012 1:54PM
THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Updated: January 10, 2013 6:18AM
When Indiana lawmakers enacted the Access to Public Records law, they made clear that agencies supported by tax dollars have an obligation to help the public obtain the information they seek, without asking who the person seeking the information might be or why the information is being requested.
The Post-Tribune tested that aspect of the law by visiting police departments in Lake and Porter counties, asking to inspect the list of who was being held in the local jail, as well as the daily log of crimes, accidents and complaints — both specifically required in the law.
A number of the area’s police departments — agencies whose mission is to uphold the law — fell far short of complying with their responsibilities as outlined in the Access to Public Records law. Some were oblivious to the law and refused to provide the information, even though the law has been in place for decades.
Others — notably the sheriff’s departments in Lake and Porter counties, Gary, Griffith, Valparaiso, Portage and St. John — for the most part comply with the law. Still others learned of their shortcomings and took it as an opportunity to improve their compliance efforts.
Citizens are well-served by public servants who take seriously the fundamental basis for the law — that “providing persons with information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public employees and employees.” Those are the lawmakers’ words, not ours.
Read about the provisions of the Open Door and Access to Public Records laws at www.in.gov/pac/files/pac_handbook.pdf.