Sorry for the delay in posting more about the recent in-person-audits around the State, but I’ve been trying to catch up on the administrative side of what I do after being on the road off-and-on for the past couple of weeks. As a little reward for our diligent administrative work, Robert and I decided to take a break and “play in the sandbox.”
Since our break was a short one we decided to do some in-person-audit work here in Polk County. I’ll share more of the results shortly but I wanted to at least pass along this anecdote from our encounter at the Lake Wales Police Department.
As usual we stopped in and asked to inspect the department’s visitor’s log, but they don’t have one. It’s a small department, so no big deal. As we were about to leave I noticed a telephone message log at the front desk. You know, a slim spiral-bound carbonless booklet. So I asked to inspect that. Things went downhill from there.
A plain-clothes officer said that we would have to wait to inspect the records while he had a patrol officer come to the station. I asked why and he said that he was afraid that we would either try to steal the telephone message book or that we might physically attack him so he needed back-up.
I was kind of stunned by that response. Frankly, that’s one of the stupidest objections I’ve ever heard. What made it even more inexplicable was the fact that numerous Lake Wales PD personnel were milling around and any one of them could have supervised our inspection of the records. The idea that a requestor should have to be supervised by an armed guard is silly. The idea that someone would steal a phone message booklet and attack an armed police officer in the process is just bizarre.
In the end, we left feeling like it was all a lame attempt to intimidate us. Obviously it did not work. It was so weird we thought it was funny until we started thinking about the “little old lady.” How many folks would feel comfortable about making a public records request if they thought the custodian was going to bring a gun to the party?