MuckRock files requests to over 9000 agencies in all 50 states, and the overwhelming number of our interactions with those agencies is positive, sometimes downright pleasant. Then there’s agencies like the Lexington Police Department in Kentucky.
Our story begins where my life will likely end: sitting at a computer. I was scanning mail through, when a particularly strongly-worded letter broke me out of my stupor.
Obviously my first thought was “goodness, this is terrible we totally owe them an apology and some money,” so I went looking for these unpaid fees. Despite the letter’s claims, we records of only two outstanding payments, which were for $2.04 and 56 cents, respectively. Despite their demand for a $100 deposit, I initially opted for paying the outstanding balances in hopes that would suffice, seeing as they were tiny.
But no. It was not to be.
In an attempted show of good faith, $100 went off to the LPD, only to be returned to MuckRock a week later. Baffled, I picked up the phone and called them to find out what exactly they needed from us in order to process our requests.
I still don’t know.
The terribly polite person with whom I spoke informed me that the $100 deposit was just to “ensure” that the miniscule fees previously charged would be paid. The exact same fees that we had previously attempted to pay, but been denied on grounds that they needed $100.
As any reasonable person can see, none of this makes any sense. It’s blatantly obstructionist behavior the Lexington Police are using to dodge records requests. In one case they took $100 from a MuckRock user, released documents, then asked for additional payment when the user asked for a spreadsheet that had been left out of the release.
Ragging on delinquent agencies is fun, but the material LPD is preventing from being released is no joke. These requests are for information on hate crimes statistics, policies about civilian oversight, their use of force policy - the exact sort of things that the public has a right to know about, and that the LPD have no right to withhold by playing semantics around the meaning of the word “deposit.”
We’ll keep you updated as the story progresses.
Image via Lexington Police Department Facebook