The Lexington Police Department is the latest public agency that has determined that self-serving internal policies are more important than state transparency laws. Currently, even a blank copy of the complaint form is too “confidential” to share with the general public without substantial changes.
A recent open record request submitted to the LPD for a blank copy of the formal complaint form was treated like a state secret request. All fields are filled in black, large watermarks appear throughout the page, and the labels of the recorded data are obscured. LPD initially did not provide an editorial description of the response. This is a requirement of the Public Recording Act. Instead, “To file a formal complaint, you must appear directly at the following location: Lexington Police Station, 150 E. Main Street.” The alternative path provided by the policy outlined online, namely No mention is made of a visit to the LFUCG Council Secretary.
After a short press, LPD confirmed that it had changed the form “to prevent this version of the form from being filled”. Therefore, you do not need to apply the KRS exemption to your answers. “
What’s the real problem? Under state law, public records belong to the general public. The General Assembly outlined a narrow exception to the public’s right to records held by government agencies. None of them apply to blank complaint forms.
Not all of this comes as a surprise. Kentucky’s sunshine law has been regularly trampled by the largest police stations, which appear to be more interested in keeping secrets and shaping stories, rather than exposing the full picture of their activities to the public. To make matters worse, our current Attorney General is responsible for determining public record disputes brought about by citizens and has 50 years of legal authority to rush the secrets of rubber stamp law enforcement. Is regularly ignored.
Louisville’s WDRB recently ran into this obstacle. Cameron confirmed that Louisville Metro police denied access to the names of murder police officers investigated for the alcohol-fueled “Irish funeral,” which many allegedly took place on duty. Courier-Journal reported last year in Breonna Taylor’s report that Cameron’s Office is not allied in the enforcement of the Open Records Act. Currently, they and others are bringing disputes over law enforcement records to court.
This issue is not new, but with the growing public awareness of the social justice movement and the addition of an overly friendly Attorney General to the police, law enforcement agencies do not meet the public record law of state law. I choose to dig in immediately. Kentucky police and LMPD may have gained more coverage for open record violations, but Lexington’s police station is in its own position as an open and accountable government unaware of the value of the government. Is fighting.
In a recent case of an LPD police car that hit a teenager with autism, Chief Weathers first withheld the video and told the city council that he didn’t want to release it before commenting on what his investigation found. It was. Later, a heavily edited video was released, along with the official story of what the record revealed. Last year, LPD rushed to release a bodycam video that believed it had wiped out police officers on suspicion of illegal strangler figs, withholding videos of arrested peaceful protesters. Kentucky’s public recording law is clear when police videos can be withheld. There is no lucrative public relations or agency “spin” in it.
Transparency is important to rebuilding community confidence in law enforcement, with public confidence in police at historically low levels. It is a thing of the past that we, the federal government, demand that we respect all the laws that law enforcement officers have vowed to comply with, even if they “may cause inconvenience and embarrassment to civil servants and others.”
Lexington police rarely promote public credibility by changing non-exempt public records (in this recent case, a blank form) without legally recognized justification.
Scott Horn is a software architect and co-director of the Kentucky Coalition Government. Amye Bensenhaver is a former Attorney General specializing in public records and conferencing law in Kentucky. She is the co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition Government.