Q&A: Police report run-around


From Berne Tri-Weekly News:

Q: Our local police department has contracted with BuyCrash.com and says that we have to go there to gain access to any accident reports.

Is this in line with what the law allows? The county provides them to us without even asking, but the Berne PD is a totally different story.

A: If you want copies of the accident reports, you’ll have to go through their vendor unless they give you an exception as a newspaper/journalist. But if you want to “inspect” the records and make your own notes from the reports, then the police department still must allow that for free. There is no charge for inspecting public records.

Since that will require Berne to access or make copies for you to inspect, they may be willing to work with the newspaper on a system that reduces the work for them and saves you copying costs.

Copies can be expensive because there’s a provision in state law that allows police agencies to charge $4 or more for accident reports. (The money goes toward training.) A few years ago the Hammond Police Department was charging $20 a copy.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.