North Charleston Police: Use of Force

Caitlin Russell filed this request with the North Charleston Police Department of North Charleston, SC.
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Completed

Communications

From: Caitlin Russell

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

Every use of force report made by North Charleston police officers between the years 2010 and 2016.
Every civilian complaint filed against North Charleston police officers between the years 2010 and 2016.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 15 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Caitlin Russell

From: Woodall, Beth

Dear Caitlin,

I have been forwarded your FOIA request from the Police Department. Your request seeks six years of records for every use of force report made by North Charleston police officers, as well as every civilian complaint filed against the North Charleston Police Department. You have asked for a price estimate in advance of fulfilling the request.

Based upon the number of officers in the search, the number of years and the two specifics you seek (use of force and civilian complaints), we estimate that it would take a dedicated employee approximately 45 hours to compile the data. In addition to that, every complaint and report would have to be reviewed/redacted by a police department employee to ensure that no protected information is released such as social security numbers, minors names, etc. Based upon these specifics, we anticipate the costs to be in the $1,500 to $2000 range. Before initiating any work, you would need to pay a deposit of $1,500. If the man hours/costs come in less than $1,500, we will issue a refund upon completion; if they come in higher, we will ask for additional funds prior to the release of documents.

If you wish for us to proceed, please remit your check in the amount of $1,500 made payable to the City of North Charleston (Attn: Beth Woodall), 2500 City Hall Lane, North Charleston, SC 29406. Upon receipt, we will commence work. If no check is received within fourteen days from the date of this email, we will consider the request withdrawn.

Thank you,

Beth Woodall
Legal Assistant
City of North Charleston
2500 City Hall Lane
North Charleston, SC 29406
bwoodall@northcharleston.org<mailto:bwoodall@northcharleston.org>
Tel: 843.740.2550
Fax: 843.745.1082

www.northcharleston.org<https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.northcharleston.org%2F&data=01%7C01%7Cbwoodall%40northcharleston.org%7Cf59b7c709ef941fe08b608d412f877ae%7C9299c249c3f94cfdb8e43461f45f94fa%7C1&sdata=DtCyAn640b5i1ZvbFOGEMi8qFqBeKIk0XE2ubYaoOv4%3D&reserved=0>
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From: Caitlin Russell

Hello,
On May 18, 2016 a MuckRock user filed a request for:
"1. Every use of force report made by North Charleston police officers since 2000.
2. Every civilian complaint filed against North Charleston police officers since 2000."
You estimated at the time that the cost of filling this request for 16 years worth of data was $1,918. I'm requesting six years worth of the same data, and you've estimated that it will cost $1,500-$2,000 to fill this request. Can you please tell me how it's possible that it would cost roughly the same amount of money for the department to review and segregate six years worth of material, and 16 years worth of the same types of documents? Thanks so much.
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Dear Caitlin,

Responding to your inquiry about the cost of production being roughly the same for six years and sixteen years' worth of data, the Police Department's retention schedule comes into play. The police department retains paper files for three years, after which time they are destroyed. The bulk of the cost is related to just three years' worth of data. We are talking about in the neighborhood of 400 police officers, some of whom have left the department but whose file we may still retain.

Thank you,
Beth Woodall

From: Caitlin Russell

Thank you for following up with me. Which three years is the bulk of the cost related to? Also, are the paper files saved in a digital format prior to being destroyed? Thanks again!
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Caitlin,

Please see below for my response within the body of your last email.

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello Miss Woodall,
I checked your earlier response and it doesn't appear to answer my question. You said paper files are destroyed after three years, and I'd like to know if they are backed up in a digital format prior to being destroyed. If the paper are not backed up, does that mean that whether I request six years of data of sixteen years of data, the department only has the capability to search three years worth of data because that's all that's been retained? I apologize for the confusion on my part, I'm not as familiar with South Carolina's public records law as you are, and I really appreciate any assistance you're able to offer me. Thanks!
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Hi Caitlin,

I think I DID answer your question. We have three years of full and complete files regarding use of force and complaints against officers. When the paper files are destroyed, a one page summary sheet is retained electronically for each file. That summary sheet would have the pertinent facts of the matter. My contact person is out of the office for the day, so I'm not able to get any additional specifics.

Thank you,

Beth Woodall

From: Caitlin Russell

Thank you for responding so quickly.
I'd like to request the one page summaries you mentioned. Can you give me an estimate for how much it would cost to obtain each one page summary sheet from 2000-2016? Thanks!
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Not to confuse you even more, but we only have them (Summaries) from 2007 forward. As I said earlier, the person who provides this departmental info to me is not in the office today.

From: Caitlin Russell

Thank you, I'd like to request the one page summary reports from 2007 to 2016. Can you tell me what format the data was maintained in prior to 2007?

From: Caitlin Russell

Hi Miss Woodall,
I just wanted to follow up on the last email I sent you request one page summary reports regarding for use of force and civilian complaints against North Charleston police officer from 2007 to the present. Can you provide me with a cost estimate for obtaining these summaries?
Also, I was wondering if you might be able to provide me with a separate cost estimate for the most recent three years of use of force and civilian complaints, which you said make up the bulk of the cost in your original estimate. Thanks so much for all your help!
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Caitlin-I am told that the summaries number 1600 pages. We can put them on a flash drive and mail that to you. The cost would be for postage (probably around $3.00) and the cost of the flash drive, about $7.99. Let's just say an even $10.00.

From: Caitlin Russell

Hi Miss Woodall,
I can swing $10! Should I make the check out to the North Charleston Police Department? Can you tell me how much the past three years of civilian complaints and use of force complaints would cost to release? Thank you for all your help with this request, I really do appreciate it.
Best,
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Please make check payable to the City of North Charleston. If you direct it to my attention, processing will be quicker.

As to your second question about the cost for three years of files, I have asked the folks in the Police Department to revisit this.

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello,
A $10 money order had been sent to the above address. Please let me know when you receive it. Thanks again for all your help!
Best,
Caitlin

From: Woodall, Beth

Hi Caitlin,

We received your $10 money order-thank you. The Summary Sheets have been printed and are being reviewed by staff to ensure no protected information (victim, minor identifiers) is released. You will not be charged for this review, but it will delay processing for a few more days. There are several hundred pages to review.

Thank you,
Beth Woodall
Legal Department

From: Caitlin Russell

Thank you!

From: North Charleston Police Department

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: North Charleston Police Department

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello Ms. Woodall,
I just wanted to follow up with you about a public records request. Can you give me an estimated date of release for the information requested on use of force reports and civilian complaints? Thank so much for all your help!
Best,
Caitlin Russell

From: Woodall, Beth

I'm super pleased to report that I mailed the thumb drive out earlier this week. :)

From: Caitlin Russell

Thank you for all your help!

From: Caitlin Russell

Hello,
North Charleston PD recently released 823 pages of civilian complaints to me, but in an earlier email you told me there were 1600 pages of complaints. Can you tell me why the department decided to withhold so many pages?

From: Woodall, Beth

Hi Caitlin, the department withheld zero pages from its release. However, I can certainly understand your confusion. The initial estimate turned out to be significantly off from the final number. Initial estimates are just that, estimates. Hopefully they correspond closely to the ultimate number. However, the estimate must be made before an actual count is known so it is expected that there will almost always be some deviation. We try to be as accurate as possible, but sometimes the deviation is more than we'd like. I am sorry that this was one of those instances.

Thank you,

Beth Woodall
Legal Department

March 1, 2017
North Charleston Police Department
Public Information Officer
PO Box 62558
North Charleston, SC 29419

This is a follow up to a previous request:

Hello,
North Charleston PD recently released 823 pages of civilian complaints to me, but in an earlier email you told me there were 1600 pages of complaints. Can you tell me why the department decided to withhold so many pages?
---

On Feb. 3, 2017:
Thank you for all your help!
---

On Feb. 3, 2017:
I'm super pleased to report that I mailed the thumb drive out earlier this week. :)

---

On Feb. 2, 2017:
Hello Ms. Woodall,
I just wanted to follow up with you about a public records request. Can you give me an estimated date of release for the information requested on use of force reports and civilian complaints? Thank so much for all your help!
Best,
Caitlin Russell
---

On Feb. 1, 2017:
A copy of documents responsive to the request.
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On Feb. 1, 2017:
A copy of documents responsive to the request.
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On Jan. 10, 2017:
Thank you!
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On Jan. 9, 2017:
Hi Caitlin,

We received your $10 money order-thank you. The Summary Sheets have been printed and are being reviewed by staff to ensure no protected information (victim, minor identifiers) is released. You will not be charged for this review, but it will delay processing for a few more days. There are several hundred pages to review.

Thank you,
Beth Woodall
Legal Department
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